Posts Tagged ‘church services’

Uncreated Star of Bethlehem

Five years ago I alluded to this, but I’ve just seen concise discussion of it from no less than the Father of the Church St. John Chrysostom, and from certain Old Testament prophecies ‘in its Light.’

It also makes me think of how some non-Orthodox “got saved” by God….  The Apolytikion (a hymn) given on this page brings home the point.  The Magi are commemorated as Saints on Dec. 25.  (Recall that Orthodoxy commemorates the Magi’s Adoration of the Incarnate YHWH not on Jan. 6 but at Christmas; our Great Feast of Theophany [Epiphany] focuses on His Baptism in the Jordan by St. John the Forerunner [Baptist].)  OrthodoxWiki mentions the memory of their eventual baptism by St. Thomas the Apostle to the Indo-Iranians, and service to The Church as Bishops.

What about the mentions of an angel?  Readers of this blog may recall our discussions of the uncreated Logos-Angel from many Old Testament theophanies … highlighted in the writings of Greek-American theologian Fr. John S. Romanides (†2001) … so this need not be a problem, especially because Orthodoxy reminds us that the Divine Hypostatic Logos is not circumscribed by His Incarnation, ie, not ‘completely contained’ in or limited by His Human Body.  Could He appear as Infant and “Angel” at the same time?  Unusual perhaps, but I don’t see why not, although I must confess I haven’t seen this explicitly discussed anywhere yet.

One Web source I read said Western European pagans, even before Christianization, appreciated this, as it were their ‘cameo’ appearance at the very beginning of Christianity’s New Testament.  Similarly, I can say that even as a blond Western Catholic child here in the States, I was fascinated by and appreciated my family’s small wood-and-hay(?) Nativity set featuring non-Mediterranean-looking “kings”: a blond, an African, and an East Asian!*  I also read that extracanonical accounts ‘internationalizing’ them are quite old indeed.  Well, they do “represent the Gentiles,” and foreshadow many more of our ancestors’ conversions to the Faith….  For some reason I thought of the “White” one as some aged King of England — I didn’t know then that that title and State didn’t exist during Christ’s life on Earth!

I couldn’t leave this off without a plug for Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s “Christmas Star” (or another picture of it).  One night during college, around 1985-86, I was driving around town lost (though sober)** and someone told me I almost knocked it down or something!  It sits atop Wyandotte Hill/South Mountain, one of Penna.’s many long, skinny, relatively-low,*** ridge-like mountains, that divides the Lehigh Valley from the main Philadelphia area, as well as from my undergraduate school campus just south of Bethlehem.

And, twelve “kings”?  Catholic priest / sociologist / novelist Andrew Greeley’s Russian (Orthodox) lay student / artist / mystic / beauty / love interest in his 1997 Christmas / spiritual classic Star Bright! (available here) alludes to a 12-magi tradition, without many details except to say something I haven’t encountered personally in Orthodoxy yet, that “We Russians know there were 12 kings” (or words to that effect).  But an English translation of the apocryphal Syriac Revelation of the Magi has recently come out, and it names twelve.  Furthermore, if one Amazon reviewer reports correctly, if you have any Western European ancestry, you may have one or more Magi in your family tree.  How’s that for Gentile foreshadowing?!  Other reviews lead me to doctrinal caution about the Revelation [Apocalypse??] of the Magi, but also hint (seemingly unknowingly) at o/Orthodox Uncreated Energies Theology perhaps.  But some of the kings named by the Armenian reviewer have names or associations I might have encountered a long time ago while tracing my Norman Irish ancestors (Hibernicized McCoogs) into traditional medieval West European royal and noble genealogies … the kind today’s experts say are dubious, but were part of our cultures for most of the last thousand years if not longer … and geneticists now say we might all share in some way.  (Something like some Assyrian kings back there too, being Semites, traditionally then Kin of God!)  (This is another review I saw of it, from a Catholic perspective.)

PS: Many Years to Fr. Greeley!  Glad to see he’s doing better some!  Thank God!

(*–The one with the wind-up music box playing “Silent Night.”)

(**–If you can read and comprehend this without getting a headache, you’re a better driver than I was!)

(***–Compared to, say, the Adirondacks, or the Rockies.)

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In the Wayback Machine I just came across what purports to be a translation of what happens when an Orthodox wedding is held alongside a full Divine Liturgy, i.e., Eucharist, translated by just-glorified St. Justin Popovich (†1979) of Chelije, Serbia.  I can’t vouch for anything about the Archive link material, since I haven’t attended any Orthodox weddings yet, nor studied them, so if you need to follow the Two-Source Rule, you should follow it!

A little background: I’ve read that most Orthodox weddings these days are not served with Liturgy, similar in fact to the one depicted in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding as far as I could tell.  There’s even some controversy over whether we should do so more, or not get worked-up about it.  One thing a non-Liturgical wedding makes easier is the question of how to tell non-Orthodox attending a Liturgical wedding that only Orthodox may receive the Communion … especially if one of the spouses and/or their whole side of the building are non-Orthodox, as in MBFGW, where the groom had converted, but his (few) friends and family in attendance had not.

Just for comparison’s sake, if I remember my altar-boy days correctly, among Vatican-II-Rite Roman Catholics [we have to specify now] it wasn’t uncommon to have a Nuptial Mass, which would be the equivalent of a Byzantine Rite (and thus Orthodox) Liturgical wedding like we’re talking about here; IOW it includes Communion consecrated during that service.  However, these were Saturday afternoon Nuptial Masses I was serving at, not much longer than a non-nuptial Weekday Mass, little if any liturgical music, brief homily, short Communion, Ave Maria ceremony added, etc. (and five Bicentennial U.S. dollars in my 13-year-old, working class, pre-seminarian pocket! 🙂 ).  Point being, it’s hard to do that in Orthodoxy — for better or for worse — as you may see if you read through the linked material even at a normal, clearly-spoken pace, nevermind mostly-chanted.  OTOH IIUC it’s not rare for Catholics to just have a wedding without Mass, either; there are different reasons why they could, would want to, or would have to go this route, which I don’t need to go into here.

OrthodoxWiki discusses Orthodox Marriage approaches and services more briefly than St. Justin.  A decade ago (or more), my own jurisdiction, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, defined what denominations our faithful were allowed to marry “in the Church,” *  in terms expressed pretty clearly, though without denomination-specific treatment, by Metropolitan ISAIAH of Denver.  I once read somewhere else that what His Eminence says more or less reflects SCOBA practice generally … but again, Two-Source Rule … or if you’re already Orthodox or in process, follow the guidance of your priest.

And just to be clear, this post does not attempt to cover Orthodox weddings or marriage(s) comprehensively, just point to something interesting I stumbled across on the Web.  Much more would be way out of my depth!

(*–As well as who could be received in conversion by means of Chrismation without [re-]Baptism.)

That’s the upshot of these words of the late Fr. Alexander Schmemann (OCA).  (Link may break after this year; I don’t know if it’s tied to today’s date, as Clean Monday or Pure Monday, the first day of the Great Fast this year, or not.)

An important liturgical and devotional tradition of Byzantine Christianity during the first week of the Fast is the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, a big Orthodox hymnwriter.  Here’s OrthodoxWiki’s briefer discussion, and at bottom of OrthodoxWiki’s article are links to the four portions of this great reflective hymn, sung in sequence Monday through Thursday nights during Great Compline, normally a Night Prayer service (links to service texts at bottom again).  There are also links to the Canon’s portions here.

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…