Category Archives: Orthodox

Welcome to Sunday Morning

I’m sorry some of you will be seen as mere numbers to strengthen a church’s marketing or political power. That’s the way of big Protestant churches in which the leaders have culture-war mentalities. But you should be seen as a real person who is part of a living community. Refocusing on persons and relationships seems to be important to Christos Yannaras, a Greek Orthodox philosopher and theologian, in his book Person and Eros. To appropriate some of his words for my point, instead of a number, you ought to be “an individual in relation,” someone who can experience a “dynamic actualization of relationship” in community, but when the “understanding of  the human being” is “purely in terms of its capacity for rational thought,” then community relationships and the beauty of worship are diminished (in some cases tacitly, in other cases intentionally), and the sermon, like a college lecture or political speech, becomes dominant.

Andy Warhol — or, Saint Warhol: Catholic, celibate, gay

English: Andy Warhol

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Bad Catholic, found at The Dish:

According to the wonderful book The Religious Art of Andy Warhol, by Jane Daggett Dillenberger, the man remained celibate, a fact revealed by his own declaration of virginity and at his eulogy, where it was recalled that “as a youth he was withdrawn and reclusive, devout and celibate, and beneath the disingenuous mask that is how he at the heart remained.” He deliberately concealed who he was to the public — famously answering questions with “uh, no” or “uh, yes” — and he certainly concealed the fact that he wore a cross on a chain around his neck, carried with him a missal and a rosary, and volunteered at the soup kitchen at the Church of Heavenly Rest in New York. He went to Mass — often to daily Mass — sitting at the back, unnoticed, awkwardly embarrassed lest anyone should see he crossed himself in “the Orthodox way” — from right shoulder to left instead of left to right. He financed his nephew’s studies for the priesthood, and — according to his eulogy — was responsible for at least one person’s conversion to the Catholic faith.

He painted, filmed, and photographed the obscene, the homoerotic, the trashy and the lewd, but never seriously engaged in it, saying himself that ”after 25 you should look but never touch.” As the art historian John Richardson recalled: “To me Andy always seemed other worldly, almost priest-like in his ability to remain untainted by the speed freaks, leather boys, and drag queens whom he attracted…Andy was born with an innocence and humility that was impregnable–his Slavic spirituality like the Russian holy fool, the simpleton whose quasi-divine naiveté protects him against an imicable world.” While The Factory — the place he worked and a home-base for the avante-garde community — dived into debauchery late into the night, Warhol was rather infamous for leaving at 10 to go to sleep.

A Presbyterian’s defense of Eastern Orthodox worship

Dusted off:  Below is an excerpt from Phillip Johnson’s essay, “Facing Orthodoxy,” which includes a review of Facing East: A Pilgrim’s Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy by Frederica Mathewes-Green. Johnson, a Presbyterian and a controversial figure in several ongoing public debates, is not necessarily a representative for my points of view. However, in the following excerpt, Johnson succinctly articulates the reasons behind my interest in liturgical worship, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy — while remaining quite Protestant! 

Johnson had read the Mathewes-Green book to his wife in the evenings, which is where we pick up: 

“We are Presbyterians who are just as satisfied with our local church (but not our denomination!) as Frederica is with her Orthodox community. Although our ship isn’t sinking, we still found much in her account to admire.

“For one thing, Orthodoxy provides a magnificent aesthetic experience. Worshipers absorb the faith not by hearing about it but by reliving the gospel and the passion in the liturgy. This gives them a sense of contact with the historic Christian tradition that is often missing in services centered on the sermon and more closely tied to contemporary culture. Second, Orthodoxy is demanding. Participating in the fasts and in the long services (often standing) discourages the attitude, so prevalent among Protestants, that going to church should be something like watching television.

“Finally, the Mathewes-Green parents seem to have persuaded their daughter and two sons to share a good deal of their enthusiasm. I need to hear of no further wonders. Those children are potentially more impressive answers to prayer than a thousand miraculously renewed icons.”

Johnson’s essay originally appeared in the September/October 1997 edition of Books & Culture. I dusted off the quotation because I use this blog as something like an informal annotated bibliography for future reference.

Aesthetics in Christian theology and worship

Kelly James Clark and James K.A. Smith of Calvin College, and Richard Lints of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (my uncle’s alma mater), offer a concise expression of the role of aesthetics in theology and worship:

“….While strands of Christian, especially Protestant, theology have adopted the more rationalistic stance of Plato, throughout history many theologians have affirmed the aesthetic as a central medium of both revelation and truth, particularly Neoplatonic theologians such as Bonaventure. This emphasis on the aesthetics has received renewed interest in contemporary theology due to the work of Hans urs von Balthasar, Jean-Luc Marion, and Jeremy Begbie. At the core of these theological aesthetics (or aesthetic theologies) is a rejection of the rationalistic axiom, which assumes that truth is communicated only in cognitive propositions. Rather, there is a mode of truth telling that is unique to the aesthetic or ‘affective,’ that cannot be reduced to cognitive propositions. Appeal is often made to the liturgy itself as an example of this, particularly the rich eucharistic liturgies of Orthodox and Catholic traditions, where all of the senses are engaged in order to communicate the truth of grace. Theological aesthetics has entailed a double development: both a renewed interest in arts and a retooling of theology in response to aesthetic reality.”

The excerpt comes from the definition of “Aesthetics” in the excellent (if rather utilitarian in title) 101 Key Terms in Philosophy and Their Importance for Theology (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004).

The above excerpt is what I wished I had said when I founded LiturgicalCredo.com, because it explains much of my editorial stance.

-Colin Foote Burch

Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox begin mending historic rift

The Times of London reports today:

The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches took tentative steps towards healing their 950-year rift yesterday by drafting a joint document that acknowledges the primacy of the Pope.

The 46-paragraph “Ravenna Document”, written by a special commission of Catholic and Orthodox officials, envisages a reunified church in which the Pope could be the most senior patriarch among the various Orthodox churches.

Just as Pope John Paul II was driven by the desire to bring down Communism, so Pope Benedict XVI hopes passionately to see the restoration of a unified Church. Although he is understood to favour closer relations with traditional Anglicans, the Anglican Communion is unlikely to be party to the discussions because of its ordination of women and other liberal practices.

Unification with the Orthodox churches could ultimately limit the authority of the Pope, lessening the absolute power that he currently enjoys within Catholicism. In contrast, a deal would greatly strengthen the Patriarch of Constantinople in his dealings with the Muslim world and the other Orthodox churches.

Wow. Read the full article here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article2880038.ece 

Introducing Eastern Orthodoxy to Lutherans: recordings of colloquium now available

DETROIT — Recordings of “Faith of Our Fathers: A Colloquium on Orthodoxy for Lutherans,” sponsored by St. Andrew House — Center for Orthodox Christian Studies Sept. 10-11, are now available on compact disc.

The colloquium was the second in an ongoing series sponsored by St. Andrew House to present the basic precepts of Orthodox Christianity to clergy and lay leaders of other Christian faiths.  St. Andrew House conducted its first colloquium, in January, for U.S. Episcopalians and Canadian Anglicans.

The colloquium for Lutherans featured a keynote address by the founder and president of St. Andrew House, Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate of the Orthodox Church in America, and presentations by seven other speakers:

— “The Authority of Scripture” by Reader Christopher Orr

— “Trinitarian Theology” by Father Calinic Berger

— “The Church in Orthodoxy: Scratching the Surface” by Father Gabriel Rochelle
 
— “The Virgin Mary and the Saints” by Father Gregory Hogg

— “‘Will No One Rid Me of This Troublesome Priest?’ — The Church, Augustinian Anxieties and Lutheran Conclusions” by Deacon Gregory Roeber

— “Orthodox Confessions of Faith” by Father John W. Fenton

— “Justification” by Father Basil Aden

Ancient Faith Radio, the online Orthodox radio station, recorded the archbishop’s address and the presentations.  A set of eight compact discs in standard audio format containing all the recordings may be purchased for $54.95 from the station’s Web site at http://ancientfaithradio.com. The recording may also be listened to on or downloaded from the site in MP3 format.

For further information on the colloquium, visit the Web site of St. Andrew House — Center for Orthodox Christian Studies at http://www.orthodoxdetroit.com.
 
St. Andrew House was founded in 2001 to promote the Orthodox Christian faith by word and example through formal instruction, worship and good works; to serve the Orthodox clergy and faithful of metropolitan Detroit; and to be a symbol of the unity of the faith.

Distributed by Religion Press Release Services

Reinhart’s whole-grain bread book due in September

The book Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads is due out in September, published by Ten Speed Press (www.tenspeed.com).

Reinhart, a nationally recognized bread expert and author, is the Eastern Orthodox Christian whose meditations on spirituality and bread-baking appeared in the first edition of LiturgicalCredo.com.

If you have not yet read those meditations, click here: http://www.liturgicalcredo.com/PeterReinhartExcerpts.html .

-Colin Burch