Monday, August 15, 2011

Assumption Lent in Eastern Orthodoxy
Despite very little Johnny-come-lately Protestant-like reaction to Pope Pius XII defining it as doctrine, both sides believe that at the end of her earthly life Mary was taken up into heaven body and soul because God became man from her body. The story came from the East! Dormition = Κοίμησις = falling asleep = poetic Eastern way of saying they believe she died before her body was taken up. The Pope left that an open question. The Eastern legend is far more flowery than the Pope’s definition: details like the apostles being transported instantly to Mary’s deathbed. Miracles are of course possible, but that one’s not required belief! (The Assumption is pretty spectacular in itself.)

A shout-out to Assumption Russian Orthodox Church in Italian South Philly, started by Ruthenians (Slavs) nearly 100 years ago who, in the strife between them and the Irish clergy in America (who didn’t want the Greek Rite with its married priests here), took the city’s first Eastern-rite church of any kind, Holy Ghost, from Greek Catholicism into Russian Orthodoxy for a year but a faction took it back to Rome. Those who disagreed started Assumption a few blocks away. Both once thrived; they’ve shrunk as the area changed and parishioners died or moved away. Assumption is nice: original 1913 brick building with ’40s-’50s details (strange metal-frame onion domes after a hurricane blew down the nice silver domes, but inside is like stepping back in time as I like to do); you can imagine it had a bowling team once. Real bells in the tower. Beautiful wooden iconostasis, I think from an early-’60s refit. Anyway, there the remaining second- and third-generation ethnic parishioners and two or three displaced Anglo-Catholics have mixed (the curate was an AC curate for 40+ years), and the Greek Catholic priest even stops by (trips to the Penrose Diner after Saturday Vespers, where some of the Italian-American Roman Rite priests might be as well). Today’s their feast of title (they’re OCA so they’re on the modern calendar, the closest change to Vatican II as the Orthodox get, thank God).

Anyway, blessed be her glorious Assumption.

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