Archive for September, 2008

For most of my life I have driven past a church dedicated to someone I have recently learned is, by tradition, an ancestor of myself and most of us with Western European ancestry, St. Gregory, a royal Parthian, Orthodox Enlightener of Armenia, the first state in the ancient world to adopt Christianity as its official religion.  Today Orthodoxy commemorates him, though today’s Armenian Church formally rejects the Chalcedonian teaching regarding the humanity and Divinity in Christ.  I have read that emotionally the Orthodox and Non-Chalcedonian or “Oriental* ”  Churches feel very close to each other, in practices and attitudes, even closer than to the “highest” of Western Christians.**  Although in recent years some Chalcedonian and Non-Chalcedonian theology experts have agreed we believe the same and merely express it differently, some weighty folks on both sides deny this.  We have not been in communion since approximately Chalcedon, even though the Church of Rome now allows communion with Orthodox, Orientals, Assyrians, and Polish National Catholics, under certain circumstances – a permission which some Orthodox regard with suspicion, since it was extended without agreement with us Orthodox, and in full knowledge that Orthodoxy forbids Orthodox to partake of non-Orthodox mysteries / sacraments, and vice-versa.

Since I’m not qualified to discuss the differences between Chalcedonian and Non-Chalcedonian doctrines, and debate can get quite heated in this area, I’ll leave this post without Comments.

(*–The English-language designation “Oriental” doesn’t translate well, since most languages only have one term for “Eastern,” whereas English has two, one deriving from Germanic, Eastern, and the other from Latin through Norman / French, Oriental.  Nevertheless, often the two communions are distinguished in English by these terms, Oriental connoting “farther East than Eastern,” even though Ethiopia and Egypt are not farther east than Antioch and Jerusalem, and the Syriac and Chalcedonian Patriarchates of Antioch are both headquartered in Damascus, Syria, today.  The Oriental Churches are those traditionally referred to in the West as Monophysite, a designation they deny, sometimes preferring the term Miaphysite.)

(**–Even the poorest of Ethiopian Oriental Christians keep the ancient, traditional fasts of Christianity, including the Dormition Fast in early August, as was alluded to in a documentary I saw a couple years ago on TV.)

If the CBS Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson hasn’t aired in your market yet, or if you have access to the West Coast feed, Melina Kanakaredes (there to plug CSI) spends her whole 7 minutes explaining to Craig about Orthodoxy and how she was part of the delegation that met with the Pope of Rome along with Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW of Constantinople and Greek Orthodox Archbishop DEMETRIOS of America in Rome on June 29 (Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul). You could stay up, or TIVO it, or whatever. For a theoretically-unplanned tangent (“How was your summer?”), it wasn’t bad!

OK, there’s actually at least three Greek Orthodox patriarchs (more depending on how you interpret “Greek”), and none of them “is our pope,” but what, she only had 7 minutes, eh?

Anyway, I’m sitting there with my jaw on the floor, and I think I said out loud (nobody present), “I can’t believe this is happening!  Church History and theology on Ferguson!” She’s the first guest, right after the Prince Charles bit. Enjoy!

I know nothing about the recent controversy over this, referenced at the beginning of this article from St. Tikhon’s Monastery in Pennsylvania (anonymous), and was surprised to hear about it.  But this article seems to address it well, briefly, and Orthodoxly.  It also highlights the misinterpretation or misunderstanding of Patristic writings that is possible unless one is steeped ever more deeply in Orthodoxy’s Patristic, Holy Tradition, ie, not just historic prooftexts (or even Scriptural for that matter), but the Tradition in its fullness, including the Liturgy and its hymns and prayers, the spiritual and ascetic struggle to receive God’s Gift, and even how Orthodoxy has and has not made use of non-canonical (“apocryphal”) scriptures and related writings.  For its taste of this, I highly recommend the article even if you already don’t question the sinlessness of the Theotokos.

(I would only add to the piece, to clarify it, that at no time did Mary lose her free will.  She was probably sorely tempted!)

More from Metr. Anthony Bloom:

…we must remember that ‘to glorify’ in Greek does not mean what we understand so often – to praise or applaud; it means that his splendour, his unutterable beauty is revealed….

So how do *we* glorify God?  Preliminarily by struggling to unite with His Uncreated Energies, His Glory, through all the means of Purification provided in Orthodoxy; and ultimately, if He wills, by literally shining His Glory as Uncreated Light through our bodies as well as our lives.

I thought I made up that word, but apparently not!  In any case, I mean it literally as “Divine work,” just as Liturgy means “people’s work.”  But I just read this from the late Metropolitan ANTHONY (Bloom) of Great Britain:

…in eucharistic terms we are easily led astray by what we see. We see a celebrant – be it patriarch, bishop or priest – celebrating, and we watch him until he becomes so central that we may even forget the true event because it is too centred around him. We forget, for instance, that when the priest – whatever his rank may be – has prepared the holy bread, and the holy wine, when he is vested and when all the ministers that will take part in the celebration are ready to start, the deacon then addresses himself to the chief celebrant with the words: ‘Now it is time for the Lord to act’. You have done all that is humanly possible; you have prayed and prepared yourself as best as you can to stand face to face with the living God, to come to the place which is like the burning bush, a space which you cannot tread without being cleansed by divine fire; you have vested yourself in vestments that blot out your human personality as far as the celebration is concerned; you have prepared bread and wine and have made the action that follows possible; but what is the essence of the events is beyond your power, for no one through apostolic succession or functional grace can make a human being capable of turning bread into the Body of Christ, or wine into the Blood of Christ. No human being has the power to force God into any situation, and the only true celebrant of the Eucharist – the only celebrant indeed of any sacrament, that is, of those mighty acts of God which transfigure, and transform the world – is God himself. The Lord Jesus Christ, because he died and rose again, because he has conquered and sits on the right hand of glory, is the high priest of creation. He is the only celebrant of every sacrament, while it is the Holy Spirit whom we call upon to come and sanctify the gifts with the certainty that a response of compassion, of love is waiting for us, a response that can transform what is earthly into what is divine. No human being, no earthly being, can make divine what belongs to the earth…