ike most people, I have expectations for almost everything: from what I eat (I’m Italian so this is a big one), to how long it’s going to take me to drive someplace, to what I expect out of life in general. However, I realized as I began my experience as a seminary student that I had surprisingly few clear expectations for what the first week – let alone the three years – at St. Tikhon’s would be like. I am not sure why this was. Maybe I was too busy getting here. It may also have been because I had no previous experiences in life that could compare with St. Tikhon’s. I’ve spent time in a monastery and I attended a Christian college, but I couldn’t visualize what this integration of both of those experiences would look like; so I arrived at St. Tikhon’s without clear expectations. That being the case, the most significant aspect of my first week experience was hearing the unified message of what to expect as a seminary student. In the orientation and retreat, the talks and tours, worship and interaction, everyone and everything seemed to be saying that we will be challenged intellectually with the academics and relationally with being part of the community. We will have the opportunity to use our studies and relationships as vehicles to grow ever closer to Christ and develop a truer knowledge of repentance and of ourselves.
However, within all those various messages and interactions, I also heard a very clear warning. Although the opportunity to grow, to repent, to advance in humility, will be continually offered, no one will make us take it. So, it is obviously possible (maybe even easy) to choose not to submit ourselves to the Seminary experience. If we make this choice, its result will be that we gain the opposite of repentance – pride. We may at best gain only a piece of paper and a nice black robe to show for the years of hard work. As I said, the message was clear from the beginning. I was struck the first day of orientation in particular by the prominence of “formation” in the talks. I had associated “formation” with “foundation”: something basic that you build upon or move up from. And while this is partly true, I nonetheless had an incomplete – and inadequate – view of formation. What I took away from that first morning I hope I will carry with me not only throughout my time at St. Tikhon’s, but throughout my life. Formation is not something that is completed and left behind; rather, formation is the ongoing maturing process. In fact, it seems to me that formation is the process of maturation. In that sense, formation is sanctification. This is also what I heard Fr. Michael, the Dean; and Fr. Nilus, Director of Student Affairs; say to us. We are
The Tikhonaire from 2010