Posts Tagged ‘Greek Orthodoxy’

This I haven’t seen or read, because it’s not out yet, but should be interesting.  I’ve heard of funder the Farah Foundation, and Fr. McGuckin, an Orthodox writer and church historian … but I don’t know a whole lot about either the Foundation or Father.  “Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer”: Is that like the old A&E’s Mysteries of the Bible ? 😉   Could we look for a cable series?

So, I guess at this point this is just an FYI.

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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.)

Till (maybe) you’ve read the recent Sunday (Triumph) of Orthodoxy sermon of Serbian Orthodox Bishop MAXIM of the Western USA.  Blew me the heck away on a whole bunch of levels I don’t need to bother you with.

(BTW, there’s nothing “ecumenically incorrect” about calling the First Sunday of the Great Fast [Lent] “The Triumph of Orthodoxy.”  The “Orthodoxy” referenced is regarding Holy Images, theoretically maintained by Old Rome and even some High Church Protestants to this day, though in different ways from Eastern Christians, e.g., statues and naturalistic paintings of sacred subjects.  The 7th Ecumenical[!] Synod was several centuries before the break between Rome and the rest of the Church.  ISTR reading that at least some Eastern Catholic Churches still call that Sunday “of Orthodoxy,” and certainly they don’t commemorate something they don’t believe they still share in, even by Rome’s allowance.)

Weighty possibilities I haven’t come across before for the phenomenon — reportedly not rare — of Orthodox clergy who seem reluctant to receive a convert, especially in the Western world, are presented by a Greek priest in Australia.  (NB: I’ve never heard of a language requirement before.)

His piece reminds us that most Orthodox didn’t come to the West as missionaries.  Of course, most non-Indigenous didn’t come to North America, Australia, etc., as missionaries — their religions basically followed them here.  (Of course, conversion of the Indians was part and parcel of colonial policy in Latin America.)  We easily forget ethnic distinction in religion wasn’t brought here by the Orthodox; to this day many Protestant and Catholic congregations are still predominantly of one or another ethnicity (or two), even if they don’t include it in their buildings’ names anymore.  But active explicit or implicit competition for adherents began apace at least in the U.S. with its (eventual) very “free-market” approach to religion.  Since overall, Orthodox are more-recent arrivals than other Christians, they’re mostly still in that earlier phase so to speak.

Sometimes a little sociological understanding can go a long way….  Kind of a correlate to Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green’s 12th “…Thing I Wish I’d Known…

…available here!

…may be December 17!

What’s a Patriarch?

The election just announced (“Новым Патриархом стал митрополит Кирилл” — with an icon streaming myrrh right there in the church in Moscow! More here and here temporarily. Good short biography here.) of a new Patriarch for around half of the world’s quarter-billion or more Eastern Orthodox Christians (after the repose last month of His Holiness Patriarch ALEXEI II of Moscow, All Rus, “and the Far North” as it was classically described at least once) — Metropolitan KYRILL of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Russia, widely considered the “frontrunner” (God grant you Many Years, Your Holiness!) — might raise the question of what an Orthodox Patriarch actually is.

And myself coming from a Latin background and living in the West, addressing mostly others living in the West, in English, very familiar with the Pope of Rome — if you’ll permit me, I’ll start off by saying that an Orthodox Patriarch is not normally a “little Pope” whose word is law among those whose Patriarch he is.  Although like all Orthodox Bishops he is officially a leading teacher of Orthodoxy, he does not “develop doctrine,” alone or with anybody else, but merely teaches together with his brother Bishops “that which was handed down from the Apostles,” ie, Holy Tradition (traditio, handing down), including Holy Scripture.

The Orthodox Church is organized into clusters of dioceses, a Tradition established after the First Ecumenical Synod aka the Council of Nicea in AD 325.  No Orthodox Bishop in communion with The Orthodox Church stands alone, but with his brother Bishops, normally on a geographic basis.  (The best comparison for our purposes might be the Anglican Communion’s normative structure, with separate Church Provinces in different countries or regions, each led by its bishops collectively as equals, based on this tradition.)  Such a cluster might be called an ecclesiastical province, a catholicosate (historically), a patriarchate, or other terms such as National Church, Local Church (with a big-L and a big-C), jurisdiction, or simply Church.  And some of these may be ‘clusters of clusters.’

Normally the Ruling Hierarch of the political capital, largest city, or leading diocese, serves as ex officio chairman of the Bishops of that cluster of dioceses — First Among Equals — as well as overseeing its central administrative offices and functionaries, providing stability and focus for the whole Church in that cluster.  Traditionally his diocese was called that cluster’s metropolis, and he, its Metropolitan, or Metropolitan Archbishop.  Today some are instead called Archbishop, primate, or Patriarch.*  In a cluster of clusters, still one of the primates is traditionally ex officio presiding bishop of the whole, with seniority over fellow Bishops of equal rank … although often in such a case the chief bishop is titled Patriarch, so it’s clear.  Orthodox have never recognized any Bishop with greater seniority than a patriarch, and maintain the ancient dictum, “A patriarch never submits to another patriarch,” but takes his turn in the traditional established order of seniority even among patriarchs, as an equal.

(This, naturally, is the [big-T] Traditional problem — ecclesiopolitically if you will — with the claim of the Patriarch of Rome to jurisdiction over other Patriarchs, even back when he was First Among Equal Patriarchs.  “Pope” was never recognized as a rank higher than Patriarch outside the Western Patriarchate; in fact, Christendom’s other Pope, he of Alexandria, Egypt — no unimportant city in the Roman Empire or the later Church — has never aspired to what Orthodox have come to call papalism, that universal, immediate, ordinary, supreme, full jurisdiction over every Christian, asserted by Rome.  Nevermind all the other problems with Rome’s claims, which are not the topic of this post!  BTW, Orthodox Bishops have differing titles, “ranks,” and seniority, only for purposes of order, honor to the dioceses they lead, and varying responsibilities.  That is to say, at every meeting of them their speaking order and chairmanship is predetermined, with the aim of making things run smoother than otherwise; also who presides at a Liturgy with more than one Bishop present.  And a Bishop’s basic responsibilities may be as an auxiliary bishop, or else a Ruling Hierarch, which latter may along with that serve as provincial primate, or primate of a cluster of provinces.)

Today 9  of Orthodoxy’s local primates are Patriarchs, those of Constantinople (Istanbul), Alexandria, Antioch (resident in Damascus), Jerusalem, Moscow, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Georgia (this last titled Catholicos-Patriarch).  Each is the lead Bishop for Orthodox in the area around his city or country, and some also elsewhere because of 20th-century expansion in Orthodox evangelization and mass migration.  As such, a Patriarch’s (or other primate’s) exact responsibilities vary from place to place.  Besides administering his own diocese, chairing local meetings of synods and councils of Bishops and other churchmen and -women, and overseeing central Church administration and institutions, he often visits throughout his Local Church and other Local Orthodox Churches to maintain ties of fellowship / communion (Greek koinonia) in person, serves high-profile Liturgies, preaches, writes, advocates for public wellbeing and improvement and traditional, Orthodox-influenced culture(s), meets with governmental and non-Orthodox religious leaders, provides overall leadership in his Church, leads in the Church teaching and formation of young people and future churchpeople, and overall tries to help his people be saved….  In short, it’s the work of any Orthodox Bishop, ‘writ large’ if you will.  But normally in a far more collaborative spirit than many Westerners might expect considering Orthodoxy’s ‘oldness’ and ‘conservatism,’ “long beards, robes, and services,” headscarves (often), lack of “praise bands,” dearth of agitation, exhortations to piety and humility, ‘cloistered’ or semi-cloistered monasticism….

It’s a commonplace in the field of  Church History that a Bishop’s “job one” was to ensure the unity of his local flock, protecting it from the divisions of heresy and schism.  A Patriarch’s (or other primate’s), then, is to also ensure the unity of his Patriarchate or Province.  This is similar to the role of ruling bishops and primates in other Churches similarly structured, such as Anglicanism, Catholicism (Western and Eastern, papal and “independent”), the Oriental Churches (ie, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syriac, Armenian, Asian Indian, etc.), and the Assyrian Church.  In this way, it’s not unique to Orthodoxy.  Even the title of Patriarch is used by other “Eastern” Churches besides us.

And why the title Patriarch?  Really, Patriarch is ‘just’ a primate and Local Church granted more honor and seniority by the Church, for whatever reasons.  It’s not strictly theological or ‘necessary.’  All Orthodox Churches are equal.  Another irony is that Pope Benedict XVI of Rome the other year dropped the one of his many historic titles — Patriarch of the West — that o/Orthodox Tradition can theoretically deal with!

Also, a Patriarch (or Primate, or any Bishop ideally) is revered by Orthodox Tradition as a sacrament, symbol, sacred embodiment of his Church, hence their vestments and their hand-kissing by laity.  He is in a sense the father of his Church; episcopal consecration is part of the “Mystery” of Holy Orders, after all.  The ultimate ‘icon’ of a Church is its primate presiding over Divine Liturgy alongside his clergy, surrounded by the faithful.  After all, it’s not just about pushing pencils!

(*–BTW, an Orthodox Patriarchate is not in the first place what feminist theorists refer to as a patriarchal structure.  In Orthodox usage the word patriarch derives not from Greek words for father-ruler, but country-ruler [in broad and religious senses] … patria as fatherland or motherland, meaning simply a sizeable territory.)

Strong Safety Troy Polamalu spoke with Yahoo Sports last fall about life, the universe, and everything, including his faith, Orthodoxy, which seems very important to him since converting a few years ago.  They even named their son, born this October, Paisios!  (If the Yahoo link breaks, you might find the interview here, or here [That’s right, use for a search term the most unlikely phrase in the copy!].)

Like Polamalu, I can attest the helpfulness of having weekday Liturgies available.  He and his wife are in the habit of going every Tuesday to a Greek Orthodox women’s monastery – Nativity of the Theotokos – an hour north of Pittsburgh; and sometimes my health permits me to attend during the week at St. Tikhon’s Monastery 3 hours north of Philly (five, the way I travel).

The other day Cuba’s first Russian Orthodox Cathedral was consecrated by a high-level bishop from Russia.  It was built in Old Havana largely by the Cuban government itself, beginning in 2004.

Earlier this year the government gave the Greek Orthodox Metropolis covering Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and nearby parts of South America, a large old building for its regional seminary.

Also in 2004 a new Greek Orthodox church had been opened, also built with a major government financial contribution.  This account from a Greek source (now on an unrelated website) supplies more religious details, including at least one convert priest from Cuba.

This weekend 9 Primates and 5 other Bishop-representatives of Orthodoxy’s 14 universally-recognized Autocephalous Churches convened a “synaxis” in Istanbul chaired by the First Among Equals, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople BARTHOLOMEW.  Their end-of-summit communique, released just today, is worth reading in its entirety.  In particular, Section 13(ii) declares

our desire for the swift healing of every canonical anomaly that has arisen from historical circumstances and pastoral requirements, such as in the so-called Orthodox Diaspora, with a view to overcoming every possible influence that is foreign to Orthodox ecclesiology. In this respect we welcome the proposal by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to convene Panorthodox Consultations within the coming year 2009 on this subject, as well as for the continuation of preparations for the Holy and Great Council. In accordance with the standing order and practice of the Panorthodox Consultations in Rhodes, it will invite all Autocephalous Churches.

It’s signed

+ Bartholomew of Constantinople
+ Theodore of Alexandria
+ Ignatius of Antioch
+ Theophilos of Jerusalem
+ Alexey of Moscow
+ Amphilochios of Montenegro
(representing the Church of Serbia)
+ Laurentiu of Transylvania
(representing the Church of Romania)
+ Dometiyan of Vidin
(representing the Church of Bulgaria)
+ Gerasime of Zugdidi
(representing the Church of Georgia)
+ Chrysostomos of Cyprus
+ Ieronymos of Athens
+ Jeremiasz of Wrocław
(representing of the Church of Poland)
+ Anastasios of Tirana {Albania}
+ Christopher of the Czech Lands and Slovakia

Although if the Rhodes meetings are the exemplar for the Unity meetings, the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America (OCA) won’t be invited, since a number of the other Churches don’t consider them autocephalous, but still part of the Patriarchate of Moscow, their Mother Church — a position the OCA has officially seemed to take in stride since Moscow recognized it as autocephalous in 1970.

Every time I made it to Divine Liturgy while he was with my parish, or just about,* the priest who Chrismated me, preceded Communion with a collective reminder about the o/Orthodox understanding of the Mysteries (sacraments) as special encounters with God’s Uncreated Energies.  I can’t remember it verbatim, but he said Communion is like a fire that risks consuming the unprepared, but purifies those who receive it with preparation, including prayer, fasting, repentance, Confession if necessary, reconciliation with others if necessary, reverence, etc.  I also remember either hearing or reading somewhere – not from him IIRC – a story about someone who once received Communion without preparation, and immediately fell down dead.  I’m reminded of St. Symeon Metaphrastes’ Prayer of Thanksgiving After Communion.  I’m also reminded of Fr. John Romanides’ words about how we will all see God’s Glory in the end, but for those who haven’t struggled for Purification, God’s Energies won’t be experienced as Uncreated Light, but purifying fire: IIUC this fire’s job of purifying is never completed because God is infinitely better than we are, whereas if you’ve at least tried to put yourself on the right trajectory in life, God may, as Orthodox constantly pray, “have mercy.”  And my own conclusion: Created light burns up close but lights at a distance, whereas Uncreated Light lights up close, but burns at a distance.

PS: Nobody’s “worthy” to receive.  The best we can do is prepare, and hope in God’s Mercy.

(*–My health usually prevents me, so I don’t know if he does this all the time.)

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!

The homepage of St. Paul’s now reports that although the Theotokos has stopped weeping, St. Nicholas has started, so they’re continuing twice-a-day Paraklesis with hymns to him also.

Recall that the original instances in 1960 were also in quick succession, as they mention.

This icon of “St. Nick” demonstrates the Orthodox experience that even store-bought print-icons (mounted on wood, or not), as contrasted with the more traditional hand-painted ones, participate in God’s Uncreated Energies like this.

BTW, the Greek writing quite visible on this icon says literally “The Holy Nicholas” or “The Saint Nicholas” or “Nicholas the Saint,” normally just seen as “Saint Nicholas.”  This is typical of icons, in whatever language, although sometimes the caption is expanded to include other titles or references related to the Saint.