Canons and Liturgical Practices

Childbirth is a Blessing, Not an Occasion of Impurity

by Carrie Frederick Frost

churching

Multiple petitions are offered for the fruitfulness of a couple’s union during an Orthodox marriage service, so many that a college friend characterized my wedding as a fertility rite. One such example: “That He will grant unto them the enjoyment of the blessing of children…let us pray to the Lord.”

Based on the sentiment that children are a blessing to be enjoyed that is expressed in the marriage service, one might assume that the Orthodox prayers said after the birth of a child are full of thanksgiving and rejoicing; the nuptial prayers have, after all, been answered. Instead, these qualities are noticeably lacking from the post-childbirth prayers that are part of the Orthodox Euchologion, the compendium of services: the First Day prayers (said soon after childbirth) and the Churching (for when the mother and child come to church the first time after childbirth). Continue Reading…

It’s That Time of the Year Again: In Tone Four, “The murderers of God, the lawless nation of the Jews…”

by Bogdan G. Bucur

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Disturbing Words, Disturbed Emotions

The words in the title are from one of the stichera at the Beatitudes chanted on Holy Thursday evening (Triodion, 589). Similar references to “arrogant Israel, people guilty of blood,”  “bloodthirsty people, jealous and vengeful,” and “the perverse and crooked people of the Hebrews” occur in the unabbreviated English translation of the Lamentations service printed in the Lenten Triodion.

It is true that this kind of language appears less strident when considered within the context of Byzantine rhetoric; it is also true that the pattern is set by the prophetic literature of the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Micah 6:1-5; Amos 2:9-12); and it is, yet again, true that we must also take into consideration the larger context of the Church’s growth from a charismatic, egalitarian, theologically innovative, and administratively schismatic group within first-century Judaism into the increasingly Gentile reality of the second century. Indeed, during the early decades of the Christian movement, the context for the vitriolic anti-Judaism found in the Hebrew Bible, in some apocalyptic writings of the Second Temple era, and in the New Testament (e.g., “brood of vipers,” “synagogue of Satan,” “enemies of God,” “sons of the devil”) shifted gradually from harsh intra-Jewish polemics to polemics between the overwhelmingly Gentile Church and “the Jews.” All good and true—but today these invectives are deeply disturbing, and we know that rhetoric of this kind has at times been part of the explosive mix that led to violence against Jews. Continue Reading…

Some Common Misperceptions about the Date of Pascha/Easter

by John Fotopoulos

Easter-Egg

Note: This essay was originally posted in 2016. While the Orthodox and Catholic/Protestant dates coincide this year, there is still widespread misunderstanding about the calendar differences between the Orthodox and Western churches.

There is a common misperception among Orthodox Christians that the reason why Orthodox Easter (i.e. Pascha) often occurs so much later than Western Christian Easter is because the Orthodox Church abides by the rules for calculating the date of Pascha issued by the 1st Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in 325 AD and thus the Orthodox must wait for Passover to be celebrated by the Jewish community before Pascha can occur. Despite this view being held by so many Orthodox Christians as well as being promoted in popular essays written by some Orthodox priests, it is not accurate. The reason why Orthodox Pascha frequently occurs so much later than Easter celebrated by Roman Catholics and Protestants has nothing to do with the Orthodox Church following the Paschal formula of Nicaea and the Western Churches not doing so, nor is it because the Orthodox must wait for Jewish Passover to be celebrated. Rather, Orthodox Pascha frequently occurs later than Western Easter because the Orthodox Church uses inaccurate scientific calculations that rely on the inaccurate Julian Calendar to determine the date of Pascha for each year. Some background information is in order to help explain precisely what the problems are. Continue Reading…