Friday, February 18, 2005

From blog member Samer al-Batal
More from Neil the Irish Melkite on the building of the first-ever intentionally joint Greek* Orthodox (Antioch)/Melkite church in Syria
Or how Eastern church history in the Middle East differs to that of East Slavic Americans

S al-B: For the Byzantine Catholic/Orthodox bickerers on religious (unfortunately not always describing a prayerful attitude) message boards**, excessively coloured as they are by Slavic perceptions (adopted by the die-hard Orthodox converts who dominate those boards) and where the Slavic historical mindset enjoys a monopoly and oversees and directs the discussions, which often turn quickly into pissing contests. For those who have convinced online visitors that that little online world (similiar to the ugly caricature of [Western] Catholicism Americans revel in, who see the somewhat puritan, quasi-Jansenist streak of Irish Catholicism imported into America as indicative of the character of the Catholic religion and Catholic world at large) universally characterises relationships between the two sides at both the hierarchical and grassroots level, comes a good description of another reality not from the diaspora in America and elsewhere, but from the ‘old country’ and part of the Old World itself. [End.]

Though I’ve often had the impression, Samer, that the Greeks (as represented by Mt Athos and the Old Calendarist sects and from whose language we get the word xenophobia) and those who follow them are more vicious to Western Catholicism than the Slavs. Russians, for example, historically alternate between reacting against it (Old Believers and Slavophiles) and incorporating things from it ranging from good scholastic theology and baroque architecture to the harmonies of Russian church music (naturalized: slightly Orientalized with that ‘sad’ minor-key sound to make them uniquely Russian, just like some of the best 19th-century Russian icons are lifelike but immutably Eastern at the same time).

*As I understand they are called in English in Samer’s Syria and in the Lebanon, and maybe Palestine and Jordan as well. By Greek what’s really meant is Romaios, ‘Roman’ or what Western historians call Byzantine, not Hellenic as in pagan Greek (temples, buggery and all that), which has never been applied to the church. The word for all these Christians in Arabic, got from Turkish IIRC, is Rum: Roman. (Members of the Roman Rite are called Latin.) Interestingly the Catholic world historically always assumes a Rome; the historical question disputed by various factions has been which Rome.

**As covered by me recently in a blog entry on ‘the online homeless’.

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