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Orthodox Christianity: Offering Material Piety to Twenty-first Century America

by Carrie Frederick Frost

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Material piety was central to the early Church and it flourishes to this day within Orthodox Christianity. That Christians would love the material, created world makes perfect sense—their God took on matter in order to appear in the world of His creation. And early Christians understood that their path to God would be walked in that world; embodied as a human, among the other animals, alongside the trees, over the earth, beneath the sky.

Early Christians expressed this love for matter through their ornamentation of the catacombs of Rome, which were places not just of burial of the dead, but of gathering, of worship, and of praise. The same goes for outside spaces in later centuries, when noble women gathered in cemeteries to care for the graves and their park-like surroundings. The faithful also crafted religious objects: rings, bracelets, and ampullae for oil from holy sites, thus feeding their proclivity for, as Robert Wilken calls it, tactile piety: “worship with the lips and fingertips.” 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…

“Taking Orthodoxy to America” – Thirty Years Later

by Fr. Marc Dunaway

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Thirty years ago this month, Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Archdiocese began the process of bringing into the Orthodox Church seventeen “Evangelical Orthodox” communities from across America. At that time, he declared Orthodoxy to be “America’s best kept secret,” and he urged us as new converts to do something about this. “Take Orthodoxy to America,” he said.  This is surely a work that will continue for many generations, and I am grateful that on this anniversary our Metropolitan Joseph has pledged to carry on this task. Thirty years later, however, I would offer a few suggestions to consider from our experience so far. Continue Reading…