Community or “Comspoonity”?

by Fr. Bohdan Hladio | Ελληνικά | Русский

spoons

One of the greatest impacts of the current pandemic is the effect it has had on interpersonal relations. The inability to embrace or hold a friend’s hand, the need for “social distancing,” and the knowledge that anyone we meet is potentially the carrier of a deadly disease all contribute to a feeling of suspicion and standoffishness, while masks interfere with clear communication and human connection. 

The Orthodox Church has faced a slew of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, not least in regard to the mode of distribution of Holy Communion. In conversation with priests of various churches I’ve learned of alternate methods being used, including “disinfecting” spoons between communicants, intincting the Holy Body with the Blood, the use of tongs, disposable spoons, even toothpicks to transfer the Eucharist from the chalice to the mouth of the communicant. In Canada the most common alternate method seems to be the use of multiple metal communion spoons, one per communicant. The response to this change on the part of a small but vocal element within the Orthodox community has been heated, with accusations of “heresy” or “blasphemy” being levelled against bishops and priests promulgating or following this practice.

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Personhood as “Glocal Citizenship”: Its Christian Roots and the Challenge of the Immigrant Crisis
An Eastern Orthodox Political Theological Reflection

by Nikolaos Asproulis | български | ქართული | Ελληνικά | Русский | Српски

Interconnectedness of the world

In the midst of the dominant globalization process, as experienced in various areas of life (economy, politics, new modes of communication, technology, or common dangers such as terrorism, environmental catastrophes, continuous fragmentation of the world), an ongoing debate is taking place around the meaning and content of the concept of “global citizenship.” Although a concept deeply rooted in the history of philosophy (e.g., Diogenes of Sinope, Stoicism) with various cognates or synonyms (“world citizen,” “cosmopolitan,” etc.) that give nuances to its meaning, the definition of global citizenship is still under discussion and is quite often met with suspicion or skepticism, considered thus as a sort of “metaphor” that does not account for real life. Furthermore, while it is conceived as almost incoherent because it requires a somehow homogeneous universal political order, globalization, by modifying the very context of political action and the conditions and parameters of human life overall, leads to a new understanding of citizenship that seeks to go beyond particular, national, or cultural bonds. Based on its inherent tendency to voluntarily or involuntarily de-territorialize and de-historize the citizen’s ties, globalization provides the modern citizen with freedom from a specific place, highlighting the primary need for interdependence between people all around the world, without, however, necessarily denouncing altogether the importance of local, national identities. The concept of global citizenship then naturally emerges as a striving, initially at least, for a proper balance between the global community and a particular nation, between global and local, between the universal and the particular, between humanity in general and human beings in particular–albeit not always evidently, since it often gives a second place to the particular identity.

Given this perception, what does Eastern Orthodox Christianity have to contribute?

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Encouragement from the Desert Mothers in Troubling Times

by V.K. McCarty | български | Ελληνικά | Română | Русский

“In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out
to a deserted place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35).

Jesus may have prayed about several of the things that worry us today: the feeling that the world has been overrun by elements of evil can be overwhelming. So, it is good to remember that Jesus sustained himself by withdrawing to pray alone, often in the wilderness. And many were inspired to follow him there, particularly in the early centuries of Christianity.  

While most of these Early Christian desert elders were men praying to God in the rough terrain of the hills outside of Palestinian villages and above the Nile, there were women as well who withdrew into the desert, seeking to truly live out the command of Christ. They, too, have left us a treasury of spiritual wisdom in their short sayings—apophthegmata—similar in form to the earliest remembered sayings of Jesus. Even within the Greek collection, the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, (Apophthegmata Patrum), there are a trio of women elders remembered for their God-loving teaching.

The advice and exhortation of the Desert Mothers make them excellent spiritual guides in today’s troubling world. Their admirable inner stillness can be a helpful role model in conflicted times. In personal sessions between spiritual elder and disciple, they taught their followers to imitate Christ and to face off temptation, often leaving them with a Saying meant to personally guide their prayer throughout the day, uphold their courage, and inspire the spiritual warrior within each one of them to serve the highest good in the world.

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Black Voices in the Orthodox Church

by Fr. Matthew Brown | ქართული | Ελληνικά | Русский

Orthodox Saints of Africa

Black Americans make up a tiny percentage of Orthodox Christians in the United States. Considering how difficult it is for someone from our American culture to convert to the Orthodox faith, it makes the stories of the seven Black individuals in the most recent issue of Jacob’s Well—a magazine of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey (OCA)—rather amazing. Orthodoxy, from the outside looking in, can seem foreign, complicated, and confusing. But perhaps Black Americans are better positioned than any ethnic group in this country to traverse the convert’s journey. They are a people experienced in being “the stranger.”

Earlier this month, Jacob’s Well published a special issue featuring seven interviews with Black Orthodox Americans. It may be the first publication in more than 20 years devoted to Orthodox Christians who are Black Americans (the last we’re aware of was the essay collection, An Unbroken Circle, published by the Fellowship of St. Moses the Black in 1998). The issue was noteworthy both for the diversity of its interviewees and for the commonality among the stories. There were men and women of different ages, some descendants of American slaves, others recent African immigrants or of Afro-Latino backgrounds. They spoke English, Spanish, and French. Some came from Catholic backgrounds, and others from Pentecostal or traditional Black churches. Yet, threads of shared experience ran through them all.

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