Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

The sociologist and novelist, not the boxer … though he’s always been a fighter too!  Over the weekend his coat got caught in a taxi door in the Chicago area and he was dragged a bit, suffering a skull fracture.  (I’m sure he’s wondered since then if coats should be made of such strong stuff!)  He’s critical-but-stable in a Lutheran hospital’s surgical ICU.

His fiction as well as nonfiction have helped me learn about my Irish and Catholic background(s) in ways my working-class status couldn’t otherwise afford — no bagpipes or jigging growing up, no trips to The Old Country….  If anyone stood a chance of keeping me in the Catholic Church, it would’ve been he.  As I was returning to it in ’98 after 7 years among the Quakers and Mennonites, I asked him in an email, “What if I don’t agree with everything the Pope says?”  He responded, “Who does?”

Intriguingly, in recent years the religious resurrection of formerly-Communist Eastern Europe caught his attention as a sociologist of religion, and formed the backdrop of at least two of his novels — The Bishop Goes to THE University, about the apparent locked-room murder of a Russian monk at the U. of Chicago (it’s always apparent, isn’t it?!); and the stellar Star Bright!: A Christmas Story, which latter you must buy and read — meditatively — before the Nativity According to the Flesh of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, especially if you’re American, Irish, and/or of Catholic background!  Fr. Greeley’s information about Orthodoxy isn’t perfect, but passable.  Star Bright! is not a murder mystery, but one of the blossoming romance between a Chicagoan Irish Catholic college Russian Studies major and an artist and art history major from Russia, a mystical young lady raised there without religion in the final years of Communist rule, who embraced Orthodoxy as a teen, ie, just a few years prior.  I imagine she’s a stand-in for her entire country / church, though sadly, an American Russian Studies major certainly isn’t, for our country, yet.  Atypically for Greeley, although the girl is “luminous,” the boy is not described as great-looking, which he pointed out to me when I chided him once for making most of his good characters good-looking and his evil characters ugly.  Also, this novel contains almost no sexual material — just one mild, and as always sincere, grope above the waistline, IIRC, as well as evocative allusions to an alleged tradition of “Christmas love,” around which the novel turns.  No violence, but some US Irish Catholic family holiday conflict; as one character complains, “It’s too bad Christ had to be born at Christmas!”  IMHO a true Western-style spiritual classic, though of a lay, not clerical / Religious, orientation … and an acceptable little dip into Russian / Orthodox faith too.  The pair even visit a traveling exhibit of Alaskan and Siberian Orthodox artifacts, complete with references to Saints Herman and Innocent of Alaska, serenaded by a recording of the St. Vladimir’s Seminary choir: I believe this is the coffee-table book based on the actual exhibition, put together for the 200th anniversary of the 1794 Valaam Monastery (Russia) mission to Native Alaska that formally brought Orthodoxy to the Americas to stay.

As for The Bishop Goes to THE University (a Blackie Ryan mystery), my most memorable line comes from Bishop Blackie’s boss, Sean Cardinal Cronin of Chicago, after attending the monk’s lengthy funeral liturgy (probably liturgies): “Three hours, Blackwood!”  His Eminence was not amused!

O Holy Father, heavenly Physician of our souls and bodies, Who hast sent Thine only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to heal all our ailments and deliver us from death, do Thou visit and heal Thy servant, Father Andrew, granting him release from pain and restoration to health and vigor, that he may give thanks unto Thee and bless Thy holy Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.  Amen.  (From the service of the Orthodox Mystery of Anointing.)

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Perhaps non-Orthodox Americans’ most familiar Orthodox temple (church), an unintended virtual – and ironic – symbol of the Soviet Union and the Cold War because of its strategic / photogenic location on Red Square just outside the Moscow Kremlin, is officially called The Cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God (or Intercession, or Holy Virgin, or Theotokos) on the Moat.  The cathedral’s museum custodian would like to remind us of the fact!

Wikipedia has details.  While this Cathedral isn’t inside the Kremlin complex, the Kremlin itself contains several additional cathedrals, along with government buildings, etc.

According to a university in Russia (via the Patriarchate there).

I once read that they don’t plan to hold separate glorification (“canonization”) services for each of the – by some estimates – 60 million martyrs and confessors who suffered and died under Bolshevism, obviously.  But they do want to compile as much individual information and testimony as they can, rather than just do a ‘clump’ glorification without striving for details about what actually happened for the Faith.

As the news brief notes, for at least a decade it seems the number of reopened churches there has roughly kept pace with the number of compiled martyrs and sufferers – almost as if each reopened church has a second patron saint in heaven now watching over it!  (I believe that by “acting churches” they mean “active churches,” ie, reopened after being shut by the Communists.)

NB: IIUC, “Confessors” didn’t necessarily die for the Faith, but were persecuted, tortured, imprisoned, etc.  It doesn’t mean priests who hear confessions … or rather, not only them!

Many Years to Metropolitan HILARION (Kapral), till now Archbishop of Australia and New Zealand as well as of some of the Orthodox in Indonesia and South Korea, just confirmed by the Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow as First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), and Ruling Hierarch of its diocese of the eastern United States!

Metr. HILARION is a Canadian, the son of Ukrainian immigrants / refugees to Alberta province, and a Baby Boomer, born in 1948.  He succeeds Metr. LAURUS (Skurla), who reposed in March from the flu on the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy at age 80.

Hilarion was elected by the Council of Bishops of ROCOR, the 11 of them, meeting in New York City Monday afternoon, subject to the Moscow Synod’s confirmation earlier today.  He is expected to be enthroned by his brother Bishops this Sunday in NY.  Since the reunion with the MP a year ago, ROCOR appears to function as an autonomous ecclesiastical province of the Patriarchate, whose approval is needed – and expected – for its Bishops’ elections; its Bishops are supposed to take their turns serving on the Patriarchal Synod.

BTW, ROCOR’s official name in Russian (or is it Church Slavonic?) sounds less redundant: “Russian Orthodox Church Zagranitsei,”  which last term I believe means simply “Beyond the Borders” or words to that effect.  They’re often called “the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad,” or ROCA for short.  (You don’t think Jay-Z is a highly-traditional Orthodox Christian, do you?!!!)

The interview, conducted by email by a magazine, is mostly reproduced by another blogger here, though he re-posted it in installments, so start with Number One at the bottom of the page and work your way back up.

I might offer for clarification, first, that there have been several more-or-less intensive missionary periods in Orthodox Church history:

  1. the first thousand years or so, spreading north and west across Europe and North Africa, Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland (a tiny bit), south through Ethiopia, east into India, and north and east through the Balkans, the Caucasus, Moravia, and European Russia (though we lost a chunk of all this to the Assyrian Church of the East historically known as “Nestorian,” the Oriental Churches called Non-Chalcedonian, Islam, the fall of the Patriarchate of Rome from Orthodoxy, the Crusades and Uniatism and “mission” by the Latin and Protestant Churches among our people, the Westernization of the Russian intelligentsia from the 1700s [which paved the way for Soviet Communism and 60 million Martyrs], and the Greek-Turkish-Cypriot and Israeli-Arab conflicts of the 20th century);
  2. from around the 1700s through the 1910s, making headway among the Native peoples of Siberia and Alaska, as well as in China, Japan, and Korea, and well over 100,000 Heterodox Christians in the U.S. and Canada;
  3. since the 1940s with new missions in East, West, and South Africa, since the 1970s-80s throughout the Western world, and since the 1990s from India around to Hong Kong and Taiwan;
  4. 3a. and of course special mention goes to what’s been called the biggest religious revival in history, in the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe, especially Orthodoxy, since the 1980s-90s, even in the face of well-financed and internationally-backed “missions” from the Latins and Protestants beyond their historical positions in those countries, from other Western sects with questioned connections to Christianity, and in the face of Western materialism, secularism, skepticism, agnosticism, atheism, etc.  (Remember that Orthodox there experienced Communism as yet another bad idea from the West!)

I would also add that Orthodoxy’s Number One concern from the devil is temptation to sin and away from God.

I haven’t read the Markides books Khouria Frederica mentions, but I’ve heard some concerns even about the first one, so maybe don’t even take that one as totally “gospel,” so to speak: helpful perhaps, but limited.

I am struck by her description of Divine Energy:

‘An example is the {New Testament} Greek word “energeia,” energy, which appears all through St Paul, eg, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for God is energizing in you, both to will and to energize for his good pleasure.” But there was no Latin equivalent, so when Jerome made his translation he used “opus,” work. A sculptor creates a statue and that is his opus, but it is separate from him; he’s not “energizing” within it. So you see that this creates a very different sense of whether and how God is present….’

Wow.

Speaking of mission, here’s her interesting approach!: “I guess if I could just persuade people that they don’t know what Orthodoxy is, I’d consider it a good start.”  LOL!  [Have I LOL’ed in this blog before?!]  Seriously, it does point to what I believe is one part of converting, at least for some of us Westerners – UNlearning much of what we’ve been told Christianity, God, Christ, the Scriptures, religion, faith, salvation, etc., are all about.  (With six years of graduate religious studies under my belt, I just might have to go to seminary, even if I never become a priest, just to unlearn all that other stuff!!)

Also, we converts shouldn’t get a big head about “teaching {ethnic Orthodox} about {their} own faith, things {they} never knew.”  Let’s remember they’ve probably forgotten more, historically, than we’ll ever “know”!  Actually this dynamic is nothing new – it happens in many outfits, and was a big reason why in the Early Church the Catechumenate was a public event, not just a few appointments at the rectory.  Every Lent the whole parish walked through the last leg of the process with the candidates, leading up to their Baptisms at Pascha, year after year, keeping their own Faith fresh, in a real sense The Church “ever old, ever new.”  If most Orthodox haven’t been personally involved with ‘official’ evangelization down through the centuries, this might be kind of new to them, “but in the beginning it was not so.”  Thus, the Diaspora, as well as the Revival in Eastern Europe, may be a blessing, as well as a challenge, to the Church.

Finally, a more complete way to express the Orthodox approach to Scripture in contrast to the modern Western approach might be to include the fact that we seek to learn how the men and women who put together the Scriptures, perceived them – those who were taught about them by the Lord while He was physically on Earth, and by the Spirit of God later, the o/Orthodox Fathers and Mothers of the Church since the Apostles … rather than just a bunch of kids with their freshly-minted Ph.D.’s!  There’s a problem here: The typical modern approach to the (first-millennium) Patristics is to feel they were uninformed, ignorant, bigoted, credulous, too homiletic or “pious,” shallow, etc.  This is a version of what I call the Caveman Hypothesis: that anyone before, say, the Enlightenment (so-called), was of little more value than cavemen in helping us understand their own times, documents, thoughts, experiences, etc.  It’s kind of like “Higher Criticism” vs. THE PEOPLE WHO WERE THERE, and sometimes even Christ Himself!!!  Now, I’ve learned alot from HC over the years, but in Orthodoxy the Fathers – living and reposed – come first, because in the first place Christianity isn’t philosophy or archeology, but how to get my butt saved!

The blogger from the previous post, Mr. Brooks Lampe in the Washington, DC, area, here tackles some heavy stuff, without it coming across too heavy! He’s reporting and reflecting mostly on a book by Philip Sherrard, whose writing can be extremely dense – well-planned, well-packed, making for downright oppressive reading, like much philosophy can be – but finally rewarding to the effort. It’s the sequel to Lampe’s article linked to in the previous post.

A few reflections of my own:

  • Fr. Gregory Matthewes-Green referenced there is the husband of Frederica Matthewes-Green, speaker, critic, and columnist about Orthodox and other topics, in person, in print, and on radio. They are the pastor and khouria (Arabic for priest’s wife [priest is khoury, like the surname], apparently pronounced like Korea) of Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland, near Baltimore.
  • Lampe blew me away by saying the following, even before getting to Sherrard! (emphasis added): To a large extent, in fact, I credit Western Christianity for leading me to the East…. [T]he West has always been introspective in trying to identify and return to the true faith where it perceives cracks in the truth. Anglicanism and the C.E.C. in particular, I believe, live out the agonia of a faith that has been partially damaged or compromised. For Western Christians, present-day Christianity in part means salvaging and rebuilding the Church. This is most obvious in terms of living in a world where the Church has been “broken” into multiple parts, but it is also evident in the liturgy and sacraments, where there is a sense that the inherited forms and meanings of the modern West are lesser versions of a former glory. In the minds of most high-church Westerners, that former glory can never be restored; as such, the best thing to do is stay the course and counteract the Church’s entropic tendencies. Western Christianity’s “agony,” then, plays a large role in protecting us against complacency (although skeptics and agnostics can become complacent) and in stimulating a desire for a seemingly unreachable ideal. In studying the particular theological differences between Rome and Orthodoxy, I am beginning to see that this agony is not the necessary dead end.
    • ISTM Rome itself might disagree with such a characterization, but one might see it in Rome’s, just like Protestantism’s, constant searching for new ways to express what it has of the tradition, or ways to say what it has better; hence all the ‘schools of theology’ throughout its history and their struggles and conflicts and politics (perhaps unfairly represented, for readers/viewers of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, by the great philosophical/theological question of the debate, “Did Christ own the clothes He wore?”).
  • Lampe points to the insight that even when we use the same words, Orthodox and Latins are often not saying the same thing. This is a theme of Fr. John Romanides as well.
  • Learning that the papacy of Rome – to paraphrase somebody in the musical 1776 (“John Adams”?) I think? – did not ‘spring full-grown from the head of Christ,’ but historically evolved from a local bishopric to doubt-worthy and damaging claims of universal jurisdiction, infallibility, and necessity for salvation, was key to my leaving it the first time in favor of the Quakers in 1991, returning to it ‘on my own terms’ in ’98, and thus in the background of my leaving it again for Orthodoxy in ’02.
  • Where Lampe/Sherrard(?) uses the word parish, IIUC I believe we Orthodox have to usually understand bishopric or diocese (of whatever title). Some early Councils use parish not in the modern sense of a subdivision or outpost of a diocese, but the whole, presided over by its Ruling Hierarch. In truth, the Whole Orthodox Church and Christ’s Body is indeed theologically present in every Eucharistic assembly, with or without the in-person presence of its Ruling Hierarch, but at least with his authorization… though this is true par excellence under his actual presidency: the Bishop, his priests, deacons, and other clergy, in the midst of the laity. This is why for us a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy is such a big deal.
  • This article points to the theological importance of the Local Church better than I’ve ever seen before, something with which the Latin Church wrestled after its Second Vatican Council, until ‘localizers’ were basically ‘pinned’ (to extend the wrestling metaphor!) by the “tag team” of John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger, his doctrinal chief, in favor of the papacy again, at least as far as official discussion is concerned. This is why the dribs and drabs that came out in connection with the “dropping of the title Patriarch of the West,” from Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict XVI – and others last March, were so unexpected, uncertain, unsatisfying… and untrusted! This presentation of Orthodoxy, and many others, starts with the Local Church; Latins instinctively look first to a “Universal Church” of which their pope is the merely-human head, and local dioceses mere outposts with an uncertain practical-theological significance, amid his universal jurisdiction even theoretically over every individual believer, even around that believer’s local bishop.
    • (NB: On the subject of Local Catholic Churches – or not! – I believe the concern expressed over the 2002 establishment of 4 ‘normal’ Latin dioceses in the Russian Federation, with one of them, in Moscow, as their ‘chief,’ has proved unnecessary. The Latin ecclesiastical province of “the Mother of God of Moscow” seems, like all other Latin ecclesiastical provinces in recent centuries, virtually toothless, and not an “innovation” such as an Orthodox autonomous metropolia. Each diocese’s relationship with Rome remains full and direct. The four bishops do form the Russian Federation Catholic Bishops’ Conference, which is for now as relatively powerless as all other Latin national bishops’ conferences. The four dioceses’ former post-Soviet existence as “apostolic administrations” is normally considered by Latins an interim structure, on the way to being made a diocese. [They are called “apostolic” because of their status as sort-of appendages of Rome, sometimes called by Latins “the Apostolic See.”] It’s true that few Latin bishops are titled “Metropolitan” as apparently their Archbishop of Moscow has been sometimes referred to as, but his formal title is normally just Archbishop; he is described as ametropolitan archbishop” to distinguish him from the relatively few Latin archbishops who are not the mostly-titular heads of these mostly-toothless “provinces.” I also note that Latins in the disputed Sakhlin Islands [between Russia and Japan] remain outside the “province” of Russia, within an undeveloped structure called an “apostolic prefecture,” though their bishop in Irkutsk, Siberia, is pulling double duty as prefect of Sakhalin. And the Latin bishop of Novosibirsk was named to serve also the handful of parishes throughout the country of Russian and Ukrainian Byzantine Catholics, but neither has received its own bishop otherwise either, and there are indications the Vatican has committed itself not to make a move that would be so provocative to the Orthodox. [This linked article is very partisan, but in many places throughout the world Eastern Catholics of one or more spiritual traditions remain under Latin bishops’ jurisdiction… and in some places Latins are under Eastern Catholic bishops!])
    • (emphasis added) …Sherrard articulates the Orthodox belief that “unity” or “wholeness” of the Church is not found in the sum of all the parishes together, but in each local parish itself. Each eucharistic center is the Church because even though the body of Christ is distributed in many parts, each part is whole and complete in itself:* “There cannot be one local church which is more catholic or more united than another, because one manifestation of the Eucharist cannot be more, or less the manifestation of the body of Christ than another…. Christ is equally present whenever his body is manifest {eucharistically}, so the principle of catholicity and unity is equally present. The local church which manifests the body of Christ cannot be subsumed into any larger organization or collectivity which makes it more catholic and more in unity, for the simple reason that the principle of total catholicity and total unity is already intrinsic to it.”
    • (*–ie, Just like the Communion bread itself!)
  • Not having read Metropolitan JOHN (Zizioulas’) well-known work on “eucharistic ecclesiology” – just some critiques of it – I can’t say if Sherrard is saying the same thing, or something different.
  • A key insight of Sherrard’s is something I have felt instinctively for a few years now (emphasis and brackets added): Eventually, Sherrard states explicitly that the Papacy is a misguided idea because {ironically!!} it destroys the eucharistic unity of the Church. If [Rome’s] Petrine doctrine is correct then the Church is not unified through the Eucharistic celebration, but in that central organ or instrument of government that is the Pope. The responsibility of guarding the faith lies ultimately with the pope and not with the laity and clergy, not with the body as a whole. In other words, the apostolicity of the Church is reduced from the whole body to its head. The local parishes cease to be the full expression of the Church because they in themselves lack that quality of functioning as an apostolic body.
    • In effect, Rome’s theology of primacy is exaggerated or overblown – “a one-man ecumenical council, even a one-man Church,” I have called it elsewhere – a danger to the reality and faith of the rest of its Patriarchate and anyone else “in communion with” it. IIUC, even Eastern Catholic (aka “Uniate”) patriarchates – Maronite, Melkite, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, and Chaldean – have to have the Pope of Rome “extend communion to” their newly-elected patriarchs, apparently functionally equivalent to the “autonomous” status of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople’s Church of Finland, its Church of Estonia, I believe its Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, and possibly some others of its jurisdictions. A requirement like this is apparently all that prevents communion between Rome and the Assyrian Church of the East (aka “Nestorian”), and also organic reunion between the Assyrians and the Chaldean Catholics, now that Rome and the Assyrians have concluded they agree theologically after 1,600 years apart. In addition, I get the impression from their own printed sources that at least some Eastern Catholic patriarchs function almost like ‘little popes’ over their own jurisdictions, sounding much less collegial, conciliar, or synodal than even the most centralized Local Orthodox Churches. Does this come from association with Rome? I don’t know enough of their history to say.
  • This article also contains an excellent description of Orthodox Church conciliarity like I’ve never seen it before (emphasis and brackets added): The conciliar structure of the East, on the other hand, reflects the body functioning organically, in agreement and unity with itself and without reducing any local parish to being a piece of the whole: “What is intended through a council is that the identity {ie, identicalness} of the faith manifest in each local church, and vested therefore in each bishop, should be affirmed and confirmed through the mutual witness of all the bishops. It is the fact that its pronouncements affirm and confirm the unity and catholicity of the truth established a priori {ie, from the beginning!} in the Church–and through the act itself of the Church’s foundation–that makes a council an authoritative organ of the Church…. It is the whole body of the Church that is the criterion of orthodoxy. It is the Church which determines the councils, not the councils that determine the Church.”
  • Orthodox are sometimes chided for ‘theologizing everything,’ especially for perceiving the Filioque even in Latin Church structure and discipline. But like I’ve said, Orthodox are very theological! That’s why we’re “o/Orthodox”!
  • In fairness to the Latins, Protestants often see more than Latins do in Latins’ “meritorious acts,” because of Luther’s errors. Technically in Latin salvation, positive virtue is optional; only avoidance of “mortal sin,” or sacramental absolution of it, is necessary. When I entered the high school seminary of a Latin religious order whose main task is youth work, I learned – and experienced – one of their key principles: If you keep adolescents too busy – not necessarily doing ‘good,’ perhaps just ‘morally neutral’ – they’ll have less time to sin! An idle mind, or body, is the devil’s workshop, I guess. But when I encountered what some call the “positive ethics” of the Quakers much later – not just or primarily focused on avoiding evildoing, but promoting good-doing, with their self-improvement, pacifism, social justice work, “mysticism,” “Divine leadings,” etc. – was when I felt liberated from Latin “negative ethics” for the first time… and also had less time to sin… but felt better about it!!! (From an Orthodox perspective I see more clearly the problems with both systems now. Quakerism risks self-delusion, eg, [1] the idea that I’m frequently, consciously, authoritatively experiencing Divine input into my thoughts, perceptions, words, or deeds, without more serious work on my passions, or o/Orthodox belief or membership in Christ’s Body the Orthodox Church, and [2] the idea that I’m progressing, even in humility[!], toward “the state Adam was in before he fell… even the state of Christ that never fell” [early Quaker, George Fox], ie, actual [not forensic] sinlessness and perfection even during life.)