Friday, March 10, 2006

Eastern churches*
Roadblocks to corporate reunion
Which professional church types will deny but are obvious:
I didn't realize how far the [Roman] Catholic Church [in practice] has gone until I visited a "modern" one, which wasn't even very liberal according to my friend. When all I knew of the Church was the way it used to be and Gregorian сhant and the solemn, regal stuff I saw at the big cathedral downtown, I thought there must be a way to reunite and fix things. How could I reject all that, when it seemed to be really the "Orthodoxy of the West?"

Every parish is different, but to see how close Catholicism has
[seems to have] come in many ways to the Protestantism I left, at least in form, I have much less hope in the idea of "reunion" than before. We have diverged too far apart. You can only reunite two estranged churches. What I saw sure didn't seem like church anymore.

I visited an RC church this past summer and came away with the same feeling. My sister's evangelical Presbyterian church is more formal and dignified than that service was (and why do RC churches always have bad choirs?)
The honest from Michael Davies and Thomas Day (go to the Amazon box on the right-hand side of this page to buy their books) to Archimandrite Serge (Keleher) have pointed out out that the changes are a move away from, not towards (as the official spokesmen have been saying for 40 years), the Christian East, decorative misuse of icons, tacked-on epiklesis and token deacons notwithstanding: ‘a harsh and even offensive condemnation’ of Eastern practices (Davies) leaving the two churches looking like different and contradictory religions (Day).

Here from Edward Yong is the archimandrite on liberals who complain about liturgics. And here is my response.

And here, from the third page of postings, is my apologia pro ‘the Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons’... Tract XC written for Orthodox readers.

From Fr Joseph Huneycutt
The Prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian
Господи и владыко живота моего, дух праздности, уныния, любоначалия и празднословия не даждь ми.

Дух же целомудрия, смиреномудрия, терпения и любве даруй рабу твоему.

Ей, Господи царю, даждь ми зрети моя согрешения и не осуждати брата моего, яко свят еси во веки веков. Аминь.

Боже, очисти мя грешнаго.
On fasting
It’s a learning aid, not the learning, as M. Scott Peck once said
Eastern Orthodox fasting is paradoxical and maybe hypocritical on the surface when looked at in Western terms but it really isn't.

Cheesefare Week is when one is allowed to eat dairy products even on Wednesdays and Fridays when they're usually not allowed (they're normally fast days year-round), giving one a chance to fortify oneself for the big fast ahead. The week before the preceding Sunday, Meatfare Sunday, there is no fasting at all - same idea.

Cheesefare is part of the scheme leading up to Great Lent. It is to rid your pantry of items that would go bad during the 40 days. (Which is why the Russians have the festival of Масленица, their ‘Mardi Gras’.) Much like the Western world has Shrove Tuesday, to rid the cupboard of eggs and milk by making pancakes on Tuesday.

The week after the holidays ending fasts are fast-free so people can recover!

The full fast, done by most monks and nuns, means no meat of any kind (including eggs), fish (except shellfish), dairy, oil or wine.

On some days, like feasts that fall during fast periods, one is allowed wine and oil.


That said, the best of the lot say these rules aren't supposed to be legalistic - a stick to beat people with, a pharisaical matter of pride, etc.

The scripture readings before Great Lent make that clear as does the practice of the Desert Fathers, going out to cells alone so one wouldn’t know and thus judge how one’s brethren kept the fast, and the Easter sermon of St John Chrysostom: even if you come in at the 11th hour, God loves you.

So you have the paradox of impossibly high standards but the understanding that few people actually do them all... and that's OK. (Part of the Eastern concept of 'economy': leniency, somewhat like a dispensation.) One is expected to do
something. (Our Lord said: some demons can only be expelled through fasting. St Seraphim of Sarov IIRC said: if one doesn't fast one isn't a Christian!)

So fasting often isn't presented as 'under pain of sin' (but some Orthodox places and people do present it that way).

An example: if one is Orthodox and invited to somebody's house for dinner during Lent and is served meat, one isn't supposed to make a scene (essentially bragging about one's fasting) but in charity eat what one is served.

Converts at least sometimes seem not to understand that. As the convert boomlet is largely Protestant, it seems that many go from no-drinking, no-dancing hardshell fundygelicalism (which interestingly says it’s against ‘works-righteousness’, brother) to the same mindset in this tradition, which, again, is not supposed to be legalistic (unlike the demonised West).

The best of the lot also take into consideration that often today fasting meals are costlier than non: for example, a lobster dinner follows the rules but tinned tuna doesn't. Which is more in line with the original intent, which was not only to practise self-control but to save money and use it for alms?

Ethnics of course have their native cultures' fasting recipes but at the same time are usually understanding and lenient about the practice.
As a second writer attests from his own experience:
As to eating shellfish, while fish with backbones are not allowed, it goes back to times when shellfish was an inexpensive food for the masses along the coast. It was not the luxury item it is today. That is why I can buy shrimp tonight and boil them tomorrow for dinner. But no sea trout!

Wednesdays and Fridays are fast days the year round, except for the Easter season. In my in-laws' house, it was only observed on Friday. Many Orthodox obey the fast only on Wednesday and Friday, even during Lent. The rule is fine for monks and nuns. But it really isn't doable for those who work 10-12 hours a day, as is required in many industries these days. In Czarist Russia, many farm owners and landlords complained about the peasants fasting and then fighting a lot more during Lent because they were hungry and irritable. One bishop's answer was they were irritable because the boss wouldn't give the workers more time off for holy worship. The fact was, they worked hard and needed food. And the work needed to be done.

Scripture tells us to fast and pray. Not fast and bale hay! The fact is the Orthodox Great Fast has never been workable except for those in Holy Orders and those not performing much physical work. Most bishops these days admit to the problem.
Fasting isn’t about atoning for your sins — only God can do that — but rather self-discipline by temporarily giving up something lawful so you’ll be tough enough to resist temptation to real sin. Once you’ve been given the light of sanctifying grace, it’s to keep that light burning. It also helps undo the psychic and spiritual damage your sins cause.

Ukrainian Catholic head addresses Orthodox on latter’s past collaboration with Communists
Namely in persecuting the Ukrainian Catholic Church!

From Forum 18
Orthodox bishop freed in Macedonia
In Macedonia, ex-Yugoslavia there are the real Orthodox and then there are the ‘Macedonian Orthodox’, a nationalist schism started by the government in 1967


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