In a moment of unprecedented closings and cancellations, how should the Orthodox Church and her members faithfully navigate the risks and complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic? For many Orthodox jurisdictions and individuals, the pandemic is an opportunity to show a panicked world the extraordinary steadiness of the Orthodox faith and of those who uphold it. One of the ways of doing this is by continuing to hold services as we always do, kissing icons and receiving the Eucharist with a common spoon as we always do. The recent directive of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese asking parishioners to venerate icons by bowing before them without touching one’s mouth to them (much as we temporarily refrain from kissing those in the flesh whom we love not only if they’re ill but if we are, or have reason to be concerned we could be) has been received by many Orthodox Christians both within the GOA and outside it as an egregious accommodation to the spirit of fear abroad in the world. In the blogosphere and elsewhere there is indeed much talk of how we are people of faith and not of fear.Continue reading
In the last segment, we examined the manuscript tradition that addressed the established practices of the churching rite within the Byzantine liturgical tradition. I now proceed to make my own suggestions for a uniform practice that is theologically sensible and pastorally sensitive.
Theological Reflection and Practical Recommendations
In accordance with the Church’s theological stance as expressed by Symeon, and as Foundoulēs rightly affirms, all human life is sacred and worthy to be offered as a gift to God. In fact, an examination of the three pre-baptismal rites of the Church (First Day, Eighth Day, Fortieth Day) are replete with references to the praise of God for the gift of new life that has entered the world. All of humanity, represented by Adam and Eve, is redeemable and deserving of salvation. Continue reading
The pre-baptismal rite of the forty-day churching of infants has raised manifold questions with regard to the manner of its execution by clergy. Supplementing such quandaries are issues regarding the gender of infants, the need to reassess and modify the language of certain prayers, and to include the father into the rite in such a manner that the focus becomes not simply the “forgiveness” and reincorporation into communion of the mother but the sanctification and celebration of the whole family in the fulfillment of the will of God.
In this segment, I shall base my responses on the evidence found within the manuscript tradition of the Church, likewise analyzing the historical shift into the variegated practices we witness today. In the final installment, I shall proceed to make my own suggestions for a uniform practice that is theologically sensible and pastorally sensitive. Continue reading
One of the Orthodox Church’s greatest strengths is the pastoral care used to nurture the faithful. The authority to offer spiritual care is vested in the bishop and extended to the local community through the parish priest; the spiritual father of a particular flock. Through the sacrament of Holy Confession, pastoral counseling, and living among his people, the local parish priest nurtures the flock entrusted to his care by his bishop.
The philosophical idea that grounds pastoral care are the principles of Oikonomia and Akriveia.
Based on these principles, it is the spiritual father’s pastoral responsibility to apply the canons, disciplines, and liturgical life of the Church for the spiritual good of his flock. The spiritual father may feel that, after speaking with an individual who is seeking guidance, that Akriveia, such as a period of time for repentance and abstaining from Holy Communion, is the proper “medicine” to help the person in need of spiritual care. At other moments, and possibly for the exact same issue, the spiritual father may choose Oikonomia, such as the encouraging of fasting and the frequent receiving of Holy Communion as the best “medicine.” Continue reading