Martin hated flying. Well, it’s not so much that he hated it, maybe loathed is a better word, but however you decide on word usage in this situation, the truth is, Martin would just rather drive from point A to point B. Nevermind that it would be a stretch to make it from Tampa to Dallas in a day. For Martin, something about flying took the adventure out of it all. Yet here he was; row 24, seat F.
At least he had a window seat.
In the midst of his mental moanings, Martin had inserted his earbuds and was only a rotating clickwheel away from finding the perfect album to get lost in on this particular flight. But as usual, there was the ever so slight tinge of guilt at not striking up a conversation with his fellow patron of the airline industry. Most of the time this was not sufficient to put Bela Fleck and the Flecktones on hold, but something about this guy seemed different. Call it intuition, subconscious insight, déjà vu, or what have you; with this neatly dressed man who seemed quite a bit older than Martin’s mid 20’s, something stood out.
Then he saw it.
Rather than tuning into the iPod, a copy of The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church was this man’s choice of in flight entertainment. Immediately remembering this book being mentioned in his Trinitarianism class, Martin knew this would not be the typical “oh you’re studying to be a priest” conversation.
“I hear that’s a pretty good read,” Martin said
“You hear,” the man replied, “or you’ve read for yourself?”
“I guess I just hear, my prof mentioned in class a few times,” Martin continued.
“I see,” the man said, “and where was this class of which you speak?”
“Oh, well I go to Dallas Seminary.”
“Really?” The man’s interested seemed a bit piqued at this point. “So you’re a student of theology then?”
Finally someone who did not equate seminary with either the priesthood or the pulpit.
Smiling, Martin quickly responded, “I think that sums it up pretty nicely.”
“Well then , you should read this to temper the Western perspective on the Holy Trinity you’ve no doubt grown up on here in America.”
Martin thought for a minute, somewhat surprised by this man’s forthrightness.
“I thought the only main distinctions were the Eastern church starting with three and moving to one, and the Western church moving in the opposite direction.”
There was a slight look of disappointment in the man’s eyes, no doubt at the extreme oversimplification of the models, although maybe it was the naïvete that Martin seemed on the surface to exude in his conception of the Trinity.
He finally responded, “In a very basic sense, that does somewhat distinguish the two, however there are several more vital nuances that the Orthodox church has maintained and articulated throughout the centuries.”
“Hence the name Orthodox, right?” Martin was being only slightly facetious, as he extended his hand, “Martin Cagliari.”
Smiling slightly now, the man responded, “Vasiliy Malakhov.”
“Where are you from originally?”
“I was born in Moscow, but my parents were able to immigrate here to America when I was just a boy.”
“To escape the iron curtain, right?”
“That is one way to put it, yes,” Vasiliy said, “But the desire to find a more suitable place to raise a family without being under the blanket of atheistic despair that had covered our great country was another good motivation.”
“I can see where that might factor in significantly,” Martin said, thinking it might be nice to steer away from any unnecessary talk of despair whilst flying, “So you grew up in the States for the most part then?”
“Indeed, my formative years where spent in upstate New York, near the Vermont border,” Vasiliy recalled, “But unlike my father and mother, I am not fond of the weather in that part of the country.”
“Dallas is the quite the shift from that though,” Martin noted, “How did you end up there, I mean, I’m assuming it’s where you’re going also, right?”
“That’s quite presumptuous of you,” Vasiliy said, “Presumptuous but correct, I do live in Dallas, north Dallas to be more specific.”
“Near Highland Park?”
“In Highland Park.”
“Ah, you must do pretty well for yourself then.” It didn’t take long for Martin upon moving to Dallas to admire the grandeur of neighborhoods like Highland Park. “What do you do?”
“I’m a cardiologist at Baylor University Medical Center.”
“As in Baylor Medical right across from my school?”
This of course explained why the question of priesthood had not surfaced, however, the questions in Martin’s mind could not be asked quickly enough.
“So that explains your familiarity with DTS,” Martin said, “Well let’s talk theology then, tell me more about this book.”
“What specifically do wish to know about the Orthodox faith?” Vasiliy probably disliked vague questions as much as Martin did, “Are you curious about our understanding of the Trinity, our views on divinization, or some other aspect?”
“I guess my interest is more piqued about your model of God.”
“You mean our starting with the three persons of the Holy Trinity first, and then proceeding to discuss the divine nature that binds them together?”
“Yeah, and the differences between that and how you think we approach it from our tradition.”
Just as Martin’s words fell to the ground, the pilot, certainly unaware of the conversation that was about to transpire between seat E and F all the way back in row 24, picked that moment to come over the intercom and verify that the fasten seat belt signs had not come on by accident. There was going to be slight turbulence for the next little while.
It wouldn’t be smooth sailing for sure, but then again, Martin would definitely not choose sailing as a means to get from point A to point B anyway.