- Is it Time to Relinquish Liturgical Greek?
Every religious tradition in the United States is seeing its membership decline. But according to the most recent Pew Study, few Christian traditions are seeing their members head for the doors as quickly as the Orthodox—only 53% of adults who were raised in the Orthodox Church still identify as Orthodox.
Professional statisticians will note that the sample size of Orthodox in the Pew study is small, but the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s own published statistics on marriages and baptisms over the past forty years suggests that the retention of its younger members is falling dramatically.
Is our parochial use of Liturgical Greek part of the problem? Continue Reading…
- Some Common Misperceptions about the Date of Pascha/Easter
This essay was originally published in 2017. It has been updated for 2021.
A common misperception among Orthodox Christians is that Orthodox Easter (i.e. Pascha) often occurs so much later than Western Christian Easter because the Orthodox Church abides by the rules for calculating the date of Pascha issued by the 1st Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in AD 325. Another element of this misperception is the belief that the Orthodox Church must wait for Passover to be celebrated by the Jewish community before Pascha may occur. Despite these views being held by so many Orthodox Christians, as well as being promoted in popular essays written by some Orthodox priests, they are inaccurate. The reason why Orthodox Pascha frequently occurs so much later than Easter celebrated by Roman Catholics and Protestants is neither because the Orthodox Church follows the Paschal formula of Nicaea, nor is it because the Western Churches fail to adhere this formula. It is also not because the Orthodox Church must wait for the Jewish celebration of Passover. 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 necessary to help explain precisely what the problems are.
- It’s That Time of the Year Again: In Tone Four, “The murderers of God, the lawless nation of the Jews…”
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. (more…)
- Women and the Creed: “For Us Humans and for Our Salvation”
For a little more than a decade, a new translation of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed recited in the Divine Liturgy has been implemented in the parishes of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA). The desire to use a uniform translation of the Creed is commendable and long overdue.
The new GOA translation of the Creed was issued in 2005 and it is very similar to the one in the widely used “red liturgy book” entitled, The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom (Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1985). The “red liturgy book” was a collaborative effort by the faculties of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and it is a little unclear why the GOA felt the need to alter what was an already excellent translation of the Creed.
Among the changes in the new translation of the Creed, the one that is most noticeable and has received the most attention is the GOA’s translation, “for us men and for our salvation” over and against the former Hellenic College-Holy Cross translation, “for us and for our salvation.”
This change to the word “men” is unjustifiable and, quite simply, a mistake. Continue Reading…
- Liturgical Literacy
Recently, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s Metropolis of Chicago announced the ten areas of strategic focus they had developed during a three-day retreat. His Eminence Nathanael, Metropolitan of Chicago, said that these areas represent “who we are and what we stand for as Orthodox Christians[.]” Number nine on the list was “Worship Engagement and Accessibility.” This appeared to grow directly out of at least one weakness called out in the published SWOT analysis: “Unsatisfactory church experience (welcoming and liturgical).” This announcement echoed the concerns raised in Alexei Krindatch’s report, “Orthodox Christian Churches in 21st Century America: a Parish Life Study,” released in January of this year by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. According to Krindatch, attendance at Sunday services declined overall between 2010-2015, and in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the Antiochian Archdiocese in particular, regularly participating members have become less engaged in the lives of their parishes.Issues of language, comprehension, and participation are oft-cited barriers to engagement; the service is in a language that the people do not understand, following an order with multiple moving parts that the people cannot track, which gives the people nothing to do. As a result they do not see that they have a reason to be there.
This perceived state of affairs is in marked contrast to the commonplace that from the Eastern Orthodox Church perspective, the primary act of the Christian is to worship God. (more…)