St. Gregory of Nyssa Greek Orthodox Church

St. Gregory of Nyssa Greek Orthodox Church

1454 Jamacha Road, El Cajon

Membership: 80 Families

Pastor: Father Simeon Corona

Age: 45

Born: Los Angeles

Formation: Lutheran Bible Institute, Seattle, WA; Concordia College, St. Paul, MN; Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA; Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Boston, MA; St. Vladimir Orthodox Seminary, Yonkers, NY

Years ordained: 14

San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermons?

Father Simeon Corona: It really varies — anywhere from between a half hour to two hours. It’s one of these things that’s going on all the time. I don’t usually read from a written sermon; I usually have my points, and depending on the circumstances and the situation as it is, it’s always a work in progress right up to the moment of giving the sermon.

SDR: Do you draw on current events in your sermons?

FS: Of course, yes, and what’s going on in the gospels as they intersect with the daily lives of our people.

SDR: What is your biggest failure as a priest?

FS: I let my ego get in the way sometimes. My biggest failure is myself. Not because it prevents God from doing anything — He shines through, regardless. It’s more that I worry too much about letting my passions get in the way of what God’s doing.

SDR: What is the most prevalent sin you observe in or hear about from your congregants?

FS: Probably anxiety. They tend to worry in a way that’s not helpful. This might be a different thing, because the Orthodox Church approaches sin differently from the West. We’re a spiritual hospital, and sin is more of a sickness we’re dealing with. So, I deal with it more on the level of therapeutic means. Our confessions and other ways of dealing with sin are not like the way it was developed in the Roman Catholic Church and the Western world, in a legalistic sense. We deal with it therapeutically.

SDR: Where does your soul go after you die?

FS: This is another difference between East and West. We don’t separate [the body from the soul]. It’s a great mystery. All we know is we go wherever the Lord was referring to when He said to the thief on the cross ‘Today, you will be with me in paradise’ [Luke 23:43]. If you’re with the Lord…you’re in Paradise. But as far as properly speaking, heaven for us is when the Lord comes in glory to judge the living and the dead shall be raised, as He is the beginning of the Resurrection Himself. And then when we’re all together before the Throne; that’s heaven properly for us. So, this whole thing in the West where we die and go to heaven, we understand what they’re saying, but it’s just not accurate along the scriptural and theological lines of the early Church. We would say we’re working with the Lord, and if you read Revelations, the saints are around the Throne and praising God. For us, the Church is one and those who’ve gone before us to their rest are called the Church Triumphant. They’ve fought their good fight. And we who are here still on the earth are the Church Militant — still duking it out. I explain it like a relay race. They’ve run their race and they’ve handed us the baton and they’re cheering us on. But we’re still one.

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I am an Orthodox Christian, too, but I found Father Simeon's remarks to be so typically dismissive of the entire Western Church. Very predictable-"oh, the West is legalistic, we are therapeutic", etc. Ridiculous-I was Roman Catholic and when I went to confession, the priest was interested in my spiritual healing. The approach may be different, but Father Simeon is the very substance of the stance on sin is the different, and he is mistaken.

Father Simeon never went to a Catholic school or a seminary-he went straight from being Protestant to being Orthodox. He should be careful about throwing an entire faith tradition out the window, as I feel he did with Roman Catholicism. One of the things about Orthodoxy that bothers me is this "East good; West bad" mentality that is all to pervasive, especially among convert clergy.

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