As everyone ponders their particular and usual roles, during the pandemic, ministers of Church rites strive to creatively answer their specific charge to assemble the faithful and execute time-worn rituals, so that communion, as we understand it, remains uninterrupted. In light of this new normal, however short-lived, perhaps now is the time to reflect on the fact that the rhythm of celebrations has long ceased to nurture society’s Nones. Rarely do we ask how we are to feed them as they move away from the liturgical life; rather, we sense a kind of fear that if the rhythm stopped, communion would cease altogether. But is communion limited to the Eucharist? And is not the purpose of the Eucharist itself to reveal the very essence and goal of all of life as communion?Continue reading
The wave of political protests sparked by irregularities during the 2018 mayoral election in Moscow led to a number of arrests of activists and protesters. One of them, a student, Yegor Zhukov, was tried and convicted at the beginning of December 2019 and sentenced to three years of probation. This case, among other things, attracted the attention of the public with a powerful speech delivered by the defendant on December 4—the day before the verdict was announced.
I will not reproduce this speech here, it has already been translated into English and is easily accessible. Instead, I’ll pay attention to the theological and religious background of what was said. Yegor Zhukov, explaining the motives of his political activity, began to talk about traditional values, of which Russia claims to be “the last defender.” In addition to the “patriotism” and “the institution of the family” that are constantly mentioned, he named Christian faith and the Christian ethics that follows from this faith as the main traditional value. In Yegor Zhukov’s theology, Christian ethics implies two main values: responsibility (“Christianity is based on the story of a man who has decided to put the suffering of the whole world on his shoulders, the story of a man who has taken responsibility in the greatest possible sense of the word”) and love (“‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. This is the main phrase of the Christian religion”). According to Yegor Zhukov, these two Christian values motivate him in his social and political activities. He then asked the question: “How does the current Russian state, which proudly defends Christian values and hence the values, that were mentioned above, actually protects them?” His conclusion is disappointing: the policy of the Russian state is a policy of “atomization” and “de-humanization.” As Yegor Zhukov said: “We have become a nation that has forgotten how to take responsibility. We have become a nation that has forgotten how to love.”
What is remarkable about this speech from a religious, theological point of view? Continue reading
Who am I? Who is God? Who is my Neighbor? These three questions frame the theological exploration of vocation that takes place at the CrossRoad Summer Institute—a 10-day academic summer program for Orthodox Christian juniors and seniors in high school.
At CrossRoad, we explore the question of “who is my neighbor” and our Christian call to “love thy neighbor” through both rich theological education and the physical experience of walking the streets to encounter the “least of their brethren” (Matt 25). With St. John Chrysostom’s words, “if you can’t find Christ in the beggar you won’t be able to find him in the chalice” ringing in their ears, our students venture into the streets of Cambridge and Chicago in groups of three, accompanied by a staff member, to share in a conversation, and perhaps a meal, with someone experiencing homelessness.
The primary goals of this activity are to foster an attitude of openness to seeing Christ in the neighbor we often overlook and to challenge young people’s assumptions and stigmas about those on the margins. We remind students that people want to be treated like people rather than objects to be helped or fixed. We encourage them to view service as a way of being in the world that expresses an openness to our neighbor, rather than just a project, charity case, or set of hours to put on a resume. Continue reading
Since the establishment of the Modern Greek state (1830), the Greek Orthodox Church has functioned more or less as one of the (perhaps the most important) institutions of the state and continues to enjoy certain symbolic and other privileges (“prevailing religion”) granted by the Constitution. The progressively-closer dependence of the Church on the state, especially after the Second World War, led the latter to take over the clergy payroll in 1945, in recognition of the Church’s contribution to the nation, even while previously having expropriated most of the so-called ecclesiastical property. The recent agreement between the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Tsipras, and the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Mr. Ieronymos—according to which the clerics are no longer recognized as civil servants, while a Church Asset Development Fund run by both sides will manage assets to resolve property-related issues—thus constitutes a landmark moment in this long relationship between Church and State in Greece, opening up a more general debate on the role and position of the Orthodox Church in Greek society and the public sphere. To get a satisfactory glimpse of the on-going discussion, it is necessary to get acquainted with the context lying in the background: the special relationship of the Orthodox Church with the national identity of the Greek state and the secularization process gradually spreading in traditional orthodox countries like Greece. Continue reading