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An American Orthodoxy? III

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#41 Marie+Duquette

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 04:41 PM

Dear Rick,

As I read this thread of OAIII, it encourages me to place a little "interlude" in the midst of the serious intellectual work being done here. The "interlude" is called "broad shoulders and crocuses"

Yes, the crocuses are in bloom and have been popping up their lovely yellow, purple, white cups from a still cold and tawing ground! These tiny, fragile things speak of HOPE in the New Springtime that is emerging, in Nature as well as in the Orthodox Church, as well as in our personal, individual hearts and souls.

Today, the feast of the Veneration of the Holy Cross speaks silent volumes, about interludes, the heart of Orthodoxy, and the ground from which all Life Emerges!

Time lines are a great way of logging History, but in all time lines, which are the horizontal flow of time as it is lived day by day, there is the interlude, or intercepting point. This intercepting point is vertical, and creates a space in time for the creative Breath of God to intervene, bringing about "New Life", " Unity in the midst of diversity, and a resting point, for awe and wonder. This resting point propels one into the heart of the mystery, doesn't it?

"The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desrrt, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him." Jn 3:13-14

"We kiss your Holy Cross, oh Christ, which you were pleased to bear upon your shoulders, on which you have accepted to be lifted up and crucified in the flesh; and from it we receive strength against our invisible enemies." p.342 Lenten Triodion.

Christ is all and in all! "Broad shoulders and crocuses!" It must ALL be lived in Christ, our Life, Light, Love!

marie+duquette

#42 Rick H.

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 12:06 PM

Dear Marie,

Glad to hear the crocuses are in bloom. I knew of the yellow and purple in your backyard, but not the white-- I think these look best when the colors are mixed together. Possibly we can take a lesson from Nature whereby the Creator does not segregate in his planting of flowers. In Nature we see different cultivars, but same genus and species side by side, as you have planted yours. Different colors, but all crocuses.

It is funny because our crocuses and other bulbs are up now (and coming up) and since I have 'met' you I cannot help but to think of some of your posts when I am outside looking at them each spring. I especially appreciate what you have said in your last post:

This resting point propels one into the heart of the mystery, doesn't it?


How often do I/we need to be reminded and reminded of this? But, now the crocuses are a constant springtime reminder to "cease striving" and "be still" as the Psalmist said. If there is no "resting point" or no waiting on God then we mock the Scriptures which exhort us to these very things so clearly and repeatedly. Now these crocuses, among other things, are a constant reminder to me to be on guard for the promoters of a frenzied activism which leads to a superficial giddiality at best.

But, yes Marie, these tiny fragile things speak so loudly to me now about Hope in the very ways you have outlined.

Thanks so much for your last post. This interlude is one that I can see myself coming back to in the future as you have written in such a refreshing way about the cross of Christ on His shoulders and these crocuses. Yes, He is all in all. It will be easy to remember this post which is so full of gems and jewels. As there is unity in diversity as you wrote, I will associate this page in my mind with its page number (3). You are the first post on page three, as the Three are One. Now as I consider St. Gregory's writing on the Trinity, I wonder to myself if he had crocuses outside his window where he wrote? :)

Thanks for this blessing Marie.

In Christ,
Rick

#43 Rick H.

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 01:23 PM

Not a Rejection; but, a Turning From

But it seems to me that problems regarding Church polity really pale in importance to the problem of actually absorbing an Orthodox phronema towards the world around us.



As usual, Owen has his finger right on the pulse of this thread. Possibly, this is because he characteristically seems to have his finger right on the pulse of Orthodoxy in America. This above statement is, I think, most representative of an American Orthodoxy today. This point that Owen is making here is one that I hear from fellow American Orthodox among other things that are not freely shared--especially from the lay to the clergy. So possibly awareness is an issue with this. However, this statement above points to why there does seem to be a New Spring as Marie has written about the emergence of her flowers through the ground which is only now just thawing. When we see an evolving or a changing, often times the model used in Change and Conflict courses of a frozen state of something, which then thaws and then refreezes can be helpful.

However, as we may consider the problem of an Orthodox mindset and 'Christ in culture' (if you will), and the problems regarding Church polity, it is just as Owen has said above. And, this is where the new way of thinking and the transcending of all divisions in Christ can be understood as it relates to an American Orthodoxy. In my opinion, there is an emerging of an American Orthodoxy that understands the priority of an Orthodox phronema over the problems with church polity, and this is much to do with what is written in these AO threads, and this is why it matters. Possibly, this is why some are uncomfortable with what is discussed here as well (as my PM box and personal feedback area can testify over the years).

There is beginning to be an increasing frustration expressed by the laity, and a lower nonsense threshold for what we have seen historically in Orthodoxy in America in the last one hundred years or so. It is beginning to become clear to some that based on a look back as much as a look around, there probably never will be an American Orthodox Church. In this sense there is an evolution, possibly in the true sense of the word in terms of growth. Or, possibly an "emergent evolution" used as a noun, whereby in our case, there is not a 'rejection' of present circumstances by any means, but there is a 'turning from.' And, the end result of all of this is I think more of a transcending than anything else.

Yes, Owen, as you say, "the inner disposition" . . . whereby our state of being can find harmony/balance with our way of knowing (and believing). Otherwise Orthodoxy in America will continue to oscillate between a kind of autistic orthodoxy and a kind of ADHD orthodoxy for many years to come (doomed to have history repeat itself regardless of the level of awareness of an Orthodoxy in America or an historic Eastern Orthodoxy).

In Christ,
Rick

#44 Nina

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 04:25 PM

Now as I consider St. Gregory's writing on the Trinity, I wonder to myself if he had crocuses outside his window where he wrote? :)
In Christ,
Rick


St. Gregory Palamas wrote about things he saw, experienced and were not of this world. He had visions of the Uncreated Light.

#45 Rick H.

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 04:47 PM

Sorry Nina, I should have clarified that I was speaking of Gregory of Nazianzus. I'll get the hang of this one of these days! :)

#46 Matthew Namee

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 04:51 AM

I'm out of time now, but I hope to come back to what I think is the most insightful part of your last post (which is possibly more helpful as a pointer than any in any of the AO threads). As you speak of 'the heart of an American Orthodoxy' and 'the defining characteristic of an American Orthodoxy'--which I feel are ONE in the same--yes, this is all about "encounter," I agree fully with you there . . . although I'm not quite sure we have full agreement about an 'evolving' as somewhat opposed to a 'transcending,' and as presented I don't think we have agreement about the focus of the experience/encounter. What do you think Matthew[?] . . . what if we were to broaden our view, or lift our eyes a bit in consideration of an historic Eastern Orthodoxy and the history of Eastern Orthodoxy (which requires no indefinite article or question mark), I wonder if any of the above positions would change? But, a development of this for another day.

Oh I can't stop myself (thanks Owen!) . . . in light of Father Raphael's post above (which does sound good):


Is it better to a.) equate historic Eastern Orthodoxy with Orthodoxy in America today; or b.) distinguish between Orthodoxy in America today and historic Eastern Orthodoxy.


I'm not quite sure how to respond. I suppose I'm splitting hairs by making a distinction between "emerging" and "evolving." Let me try to make my point another way. In some quarters, there seems to be a kind of platonic ideal of American Orthodoxy. Perhaps it is best expressed by Fr. Alexander Schmemann in his essay "To Love Is to Remember," in which he cuts this ideal and pastes it onto the American Orthodox past (pre-1917). The resulting myth, believed by many, is that American Orthodoxy prior to 1917 was a near-utopia of inter-ethnic cooperation, and to solve all our problems we need simply to return to that blissful state. Others, of course, don't buy the myth, the result being that they criticize the people of the past for their ethnocentrism and lack of vision. If only they could have worked together, we would have none of these problems today! goes the lament.

When I hear "emerging" (and I do not mean to imply that Rick actually thinks what I perceive; this is just my perception), I get the sense that a new thing, "American Orthodoxy," is coming forth from an old thing, "Orthodoxy in America." It is as if the two phenomena are qualitatively different, like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. This is why I hesitate... Let me ask a common question (to this thread) another way: What does it mean to be American, and be Orthodox? One could also ask the question, "What does it mean to be Russian/Greek/etc and be Orthodox?" There certainly is a distinctiveness to Russian Orthodoxy which involves the interaction of "Russian-ness" and Orthodoxy. Likewise for Greeks, Georgians, Serbs, Romanians, and so forth. Each of those cultures has its own particular qualities, and many of these qualities are not so much native to Orthodoxy as they are baptized by Orthodoxy, made holy by their encounter with Orthodoxy.

Really, then, we must begin with a purely cultural question: What is America, and what is American? America is a more fluid concept than, say, Russia or Greece. The Greeks have an inheritance dating back thousands of years. In the Russian Primary Chronicle, one can discern distinctly Russian (or Slavic, if you prefer) traits even in the story about St. Andrew visiting the region in the first century. The conversion of St. Vladimir did not fundamentally alter what it meant to be Russian (or whatever you want to say that he was; anyway, the Russians certainly are inheritors of that tradition). Instead it transfigured it. The same can be said of all the lands and peoples which Orthodoxy has touched. The Greeks are probably an even better example -- even the pre-Christian philosophers were baptized and corrected by Christianity.

My point is, "America" is new, and it is not strictly the property of one ethnic group. I am a fourth-generation Lebanese, and I am an American. My wife has ancestors who came here on the Mayflower, and she is an American. A fresh immigrant is equally an American. You are an American if you choose to be an American. This is a very unusual thing.

I think I should stop now; I've written enough for the moment. I'd like to hear what others think of this idea, of what exactly it is to be American and how that relates to being Orthodox. Those immigrants in the 1890s were Americans -- hyphenated Americans in an age of hyphenated Americans. That is just as American as our Americanism today.



#47 Matthew Namee

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 05:17 AM

Oh, one more thing: Rick, what is "historic Eastern Orthodoxy"? Has there ever been an "Orthodoxy" which was totally distinct from its culture? I think it would be better to compare American Orthodoxy to its older counterparts in other countries and cultures.

#48 Rick H.

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 11:25 AM

Has there ever been an "Orthodoxy" which was totally distinct from its culture?



Dear Matthew,

I'm not sure how you would define 'totally distinct;' but, I think Orthodoxy in America is and has been most distinct from the American culture since day one . . . but, then again in many ways it should always be distinct. I think every Orthodox church I am aware of in America is close to being totally distinct from its culture. But as Owen has written above, there is also a counter cultural move involved here as there was from day one of an historic Orthodox Christian approach--in the time of Christ and the Apostles.

Thanks for your above first post of the day--excellent post. I am going to grind some beans and give this a hard read. I think this is the second time that you have written about the myth of "a near-utopia of inter-ethnic cooperation" in the early history of Orthodoxy in America, but I have not heard/read of this anywhere else before. I would not have guessed this would have been the case, but thanks for sharing this and again increasing my awareness of Orthodoxy in America (including now the myth(s) associated with it).

And, in the meantime, may I second what you wrote in the following:

I'd like to hear what others think of this idea, of what exactly it is to be American and how that relates to being Orthodox. Those immigrants in the 1890s were Americans -- hyphenated Americans in an age of hyphenated Americans. That is just as American as our Americanism today.


We just may be heading into a development of what Fr. Dcn. Matthew wrote about once before when he wrote of "a radical personalism," or possibly again as has been written about "a radical individualism" or "the ultimate individualism." In this we might even touch upon the myth of postmodernism and even consider the mindset and way of knowing of some of your wife's ancestors!


In Christ,
Rick

PS Non-organic Kroger's french roast anyone?

Edited by Rick H., 01 April 2008 - 11:42 AM.


#49 Owen Jones

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 12:10 PM

Again, Orthodox unity and harmony in America will not be achieved from the top down, or the outside in. We cannot wait for a unified Orthodox polity to emerge, absent a Trinitarian unity being achieved first -- within. The polity problem is a soul problem. This will continue as long as a true, powerful, Patristic Orthodoxy remains, for all intents and purposes, dormant. And that will continue as long as our preachers and teachers fail to exemplify the Patristic mind. Reading the Fathers, as if they have ideas, is not a substitute. Please God, please just give me one preacher who really reflects a true, Orthodox mind! Most of the time, it's just accidental, like a broken clock being right twice a day.

#50 Matthew Namee

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 05:05 PM

Again, Orthodox unity and harmony in America will not be achieved from the top down, or the outside in. We cannot wait for a unified Orthodox polity to emerge, absent a Trinitarian unity being achieved first -- within. The polity problem is a soul problem. This will continue as long as a true, powerful, Patristic Orthodoxy remains, for all intents and purposes, dormant. And that will continue as long as our preachers and teachers fail to exemplify the Patristic mind. Reading the Fathers, as if they have ideas, is not a substitute. Please God, please just give me one preacher who really reflects a true, Orthodox mind! Most of the time, it's just accidental, like a broken clock being right twice a day.

Owen, I agree with you. It is the acquisition of the mind of the Fathers, as opposed to mere repetition of their words, that defines Orthodoxy.

What do you mean by "preacher," though? Do you mean a clergyman in general, or specifically one who has the gift of preaching? I have known priests who could speak with the tongues of men and of angels but truly had no love for their flocks; I have known others who exemplified humility and sacrifice but had no oratorical abililty.

Also, with regard to the issue of "unity," it absolutely must develop on a grass-roots level. Every attempt to assert a top-down unity has failed (cf. Ofiesh and the OCA). If we imbibe the spirit of true Christian unity, the same spirit which is present in the Fathers, we can live out that unity regardless of how lousy and short-sighted (or great and visionary) our hierarchs might be. Ultimately, it is the people who will bring about whatever unity is in store for us. The bishops are, after all, only a tiny percentage of the Church. More and more, on the local level, Orthodox people and parish priests are living out the spirit of unity. In many large cities, the priests of the various jurisdictions now have active clergy brotherhoods. In Portland, Oregon, the Orthodox parishes have banded together to create an Orthodox home for the dying. In Massachusetts, there is a pan-Orthodox nursing home. There are many, many other examples of these cross-jurisdictional efforts.

With canonizations of saints, the people venerate a holy person and the hierarchs eventually acknowledge and confirm that which God already revealed and the people already declared. Likewise with unity, if the laity and parish clergy live out the spirit of unity, which is certainly blessed by God, the bishops will eventually have little choice but to recognize a reality which already exists. There need be no top-down imposition of a merely structural unity. Unity will be accomplished not in a moment, but over generations. If I may paraphrase St. Paul, we are "working out our unity," hopefully in fear and trembling.

#51 Owen Jones

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 05:25 PM

I suppose I was referring to clergy in general, most of whom have to perform a preaching function on a regular basis.

Every successful sermon must have several elements.
1) Pathos -- a deep feeling that we all share and can experience in the present moment and later, through prayer and reflection, this feeling is continuously made present.
2) To evoke in the listeners a specific, inner recognition and acknowledgement of our sins and sorrow for our sins.
3) To evoke a strong desire to turn away from sin and toward God.
4) Specific direction in the practical means for achieving this, with God's help and that of our fellow believers, so that it is not predicated on self-will and we do not have to face the truth of ourselves on our own. For instance, it is not sufficient that we are told that we must have humility. We must be taught and shown by specific example what it means to be humble and how to acquire humility.
5) Showing that it is possible to do what we are commanded to do, by giving examples, from Scripture, from the lives of saints, but more and more important today, from examples in everyday life. That it is not a hopeless task that causes us to give up and despair before we have made any progress.
6) A vision of that which we are created to be and created to become that will evoke awe, wonder and inspire us to never give up. In other words, a vision of the progress of the soul through its various stages.

Theoretically this can be done in ten minutes. Christ's sermons were that short, or shorter. But let's face it, most of the best of preachers cannot carry this off in a ten minute homily.

It does not require great oratorical skill. There are many oratorical styles. Simplicity is the key.

#52 Rick H.

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 11:45 AM

When I hear "emerging" (and I do not mean to imply that Rick actually thinks what I perceive; this is just my perception), I get the sense that a new thing, "American Orthodoxy," is coming forth from an old thing, "Orthodoxy in America."


Dear Matthew,

I think your example of a butterfly 'emerging' from a cocoon is very helpful in many ways [and I appreciate the way you continually remain engaged and on target] although possibly in the end the caterpillar/butterfly does not speak to the kind of "awakening" or "renewal" that I think we are seeing at the present. Here unlike the butterfly where a new thing comes from an old thing, as you say, in an American Orthodoxy today, I think we are seeing what can possibly better be described a "renewing." It is obvious, and I admit to being forever the idealist; however, I see this emerging AO as a return to the Eastern Orthodoxy that I have read about before I decided to 'convert' to EO (and way before I ever considered a GO, RO, or an AO in particular).. I do not see an American Orthodoxy as being anything new at all, if anything, I see Orthodoxy in America today as something new if we are to not open the window and throw the Canons of the Orthodox Church out into the bushes. In some ways, it brings peace to associate an American Orthodoxy with a butterfly (viz. 'a theology of freedom'), and in this same vein of thought it is appropriate in light of American History; however, again I think of AO not as a coming forth of a new thing, but an old thing.

As far as your other question goes, it has been asked before and addressed somewhat, but I think it holds a very fertile ground for any group which would attempt to minister in America. If your question is not addressed at the present, something tells me we will loop back to this in the future.

Thanks again Matthew, your contributions are much appreciated here. Some posts make me think and learn more than others, some posts put me into a stupor more than others, obviously yours are in the first group just about 100% of the time. Much appreciated.

In Christ,
Rick

Edited by Rick H., 02 April 2008 - 01:37 PM.


#53 Matthew Namee

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 03:00 PM

Rick, I'm still a little unsure of what you mean by "Eastern Orthodoxy." There is, of course, the Apostolic Tradition, the Mind of the Church, which was given once and for all and experiences no change. This is why many of our best theologians today have said that "development of doctrine" is not a valid concept in Orthodoxy.

That said, there has never been a manifestation of Orthodoxy which was independent of the culture in which it existed. The Orthodoxy of the Cappadocians, for example, cannot be fully appreciated without an awareness of the Greek and Roman culture of their day. The Cappadocians were educated with the Greek classics and they lived in the earliest days of the Christian empire. The culture of that place and time period is unique in history. Who, though, would dare say that the Cappadocians were any more "Orthodox" than St. Sergius of Radonezh and St. Andrei Rublev, who lived in fifteenth century Russia? Yet those Russian saints did not read the Greek classics and their culture was vastly different from fourth century Cappadocia. One could go on with endless examples; my point here is that we can identify many people and periods which are authentically Orthodox, yet in all cases they exist in context. We cannot escape context. Without context, all we have are ideals, concepts. Context is the world in which those concepts manifest themselves. Orthodoxy has been made manifest in every age since the Apostles, and the faith itself is one, but there has never been a "pure" Orthodoxy, devoid of context. American Orthodoxy has been influenced and affected by all the peculiarities of life in America. It is a unique phenomenon, just as Greek and Russian and Serbian Orthodoxy are unique.

One way Rick's comments could be interpreted, though, is that American Orthodoxy is particularly well-suited for an authentic experience of Orthodoxy. To this I would agree, though I would not mean it in any sort of comparative way (it's no judgment of other Orthodox cultures). The reason I would say this is because it really gets to the heart of what I feel is distinct and special about American Orthodoxy.

One of the very unusual facets of American Orthodoxy is that virtually every member is descended from immigrants. Maybe there are some people who are exclusively descended from this continent's original inhabitants, but my understanding is that by this point, even "natives" have, via intermarriage, some ancestors who immigrated to the New World. In other words, we are all foreigners. Some of our families have been here longer than others, but there was a time in the past 500 years when every single American Orthodox Christian today had an ancestor who was born in another country. The same thing cannot be said of all Orthodox in the Old World, where many families have lived in the same village or region from time immemorial.

Thus, our Orthodoxy is a transplanted Orthodoxy. It is also a polyglot Orthodoxy; it is not the product of one country's missionary effort or even one country's immigration. Orthodoxy was brought here by Russians via Alaska, Greek and Syrian and Serbian (and other) immigrants crossing the Atlantic, Carpatho-Rusyn Uniates who converted to Orthodoxy in Pennsylvania coal towns. From its earliest days in America, Orthodoxy has had her converts as well. It has always been a mix of cultures. In this, I feel that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. I think I've said this before, but here in America we have the inheritance of essentially every Orthodox culture which exists. We have the incredible opportunity to learn from not just one Orthodox tradition but every Orthodox tradition. All the saints are ours, not just local ones or saints unique to a single culture. All the spiritual and theological writings are ours, not just the ones which were written in our language or in our country. All the musical forms, all the iconographic styles which are authentic to Orthodoxy belong to us. Obviously they belong to all Orthodox in theory, but here in America, they belong to us in practice. We have made Orthodox one of the most vital aspects of American life: multiculturalism.

There is much, much more that could be said, and many more facets of "America" which could be articulated in an Orthodox manner, but I will stop for now. Sorry for being so long-winded!

Edited by Matthew Namee, 02 April 2008 - 03:02 PM.
clarification


#54 Nina

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 03:39 PM

Who, though, would dare say that the Cappadocians were any more "Orthodox" than St. Sergius of Radonezh and St. Andrei Rublev, who lived in fifteenth century Russia?


This never had crossed my mind until I read this post. Neither I have read/heard the same before. I do not know where these kinds of thoughts emerge from. It is strange. We are not in a competition in Orthodoxy. The only one we compete against in this life, is ourself - this is what the Patristic mind teaches us - since Owen is right that we need much more influence from the Orthodox phronema in this country. And thank God for monachos.

On another note, since cultures are discussed here as they are detached from one another, or exist independently: Let's not forget that our modern cultures (and also American in our case) are highly influenced by the classical cultures of the world. Be that in the linguistic realm, academia and the rest. Take English as a language for example and look at the etymology (surprise! even the word etymology is borrowed from another language) of all the words in the Merriam Webster. A great part of the words in English originate from classical languages and other ancient/older languages. Such knowledge can grant one admission for studies like those of St. Basil for instance.

Since Cappadocians were mentioned... they studied classics, we study classics. I mention it also above. Actually being fluent in such areas of knowledge is an indicator of a well rounded, very good education even in our days.

#55 Rick H.

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Posted 03 April 2008 - 01:04 PM

Interlude

Dear Matthew,

When you ask:


Rick, I'm still a little unsure of what you mean by "Eastern Orthodoxy."


I don't think I am using "Eastern Orthodoxy" in my writing to you with any special or new meaning. As usual your post caused me to think yesterday. And, as I was just even considering a definition of "Eastern Orthodoxy" it occurred to me that this is not an easy assignment. I looked for a post of Owen's from awhile back without success, but in this post he spoke about Truth. And, he did it in a way that was unique in my view, it seemed to me (initially) that he was speaking about Truth as possibly a New Ager or Buddhist might speak about Truth. It seemed that he was presenting truth as a concept separate from the Trinity, as a kind of impersonal force or as one whom held to a non-theistic position might speak of Truth. But, after reading through a few times, I realized that he wasn't saying any of this and he had actually provided a tour de force, a brilliant and masterful feat. And, I wish I could find this because it has a place here and now for sure. His short post about Truth is what I wish I could provide to you now as an answer.

And, I thought I would check the Monachos Orthodox Dictionary for definitions of EO and The Church. I thought I would share these with you to demonstrate that I was not attempting to bring about and special or new meaning, of "an historic Eastern Orthodoxy," in my writing to you. But, then I realized that this feature is not here anymore, so strike two!

But, at this point I think I would like to create a strong wind if nothing else and swing for the fence by offering another interlude of sorts.

It occurs to me that possibly you have read some of my posts in the past whereby I have compared an American Orthodoxy with an Eastern Orthodoxy. And, possibly this is why you ask for clarification about what I mean by Eastern Orthodoxy because there there does seem to be the implication of a special meaning. And, you yourself touch on some of this, as you link an American Orthodoxy with an authentic experience of Orthodoxy, when you wrote:


One way Rick's comments could be interpreted, though, is that American Orthodoxy is particularly well-suited for an authentic experience of Orthodoxy. To this I would agree, though I would not mean it in any sort of comparative way (it's no judgment of other Orthodox cultures). The reason I would say this is because it really gets to the heart of what I feel is distinct and special about American Orthodoxy.


This authentic experience this state of being, this theory of being (if you will), yes this is IT. But, this is not something that you can point to is it? One cannot point to one's ontology or one's epistemology any more than one can point to Eastern Orthodoxy, or anymore than one can point to an American Orthodoxy. Here we talk about experience/encounter. Here although it is primarily (hopefully) a ministerial/servanthood place/ground that drives all such considerations, and although there may be an academic language/method employed at times, ultimately we are speaking of a mystical relationship. We can use words like universal(ism) and particular(ism), or we can even make up our own words like aparticular(ism). We can parrot a saying like one's ontology models one's epistemology, but at the end of the day, what have we really said, what has really been accomplished with anyone? It has been said of Yeats that "Yeats writes only for Yeats."

But, this sort of situation is not limited to any one branch. Incoherence can be found in abundance in the academic theology ranks to the same degree as it can be found in the ranks of the mystics, the monastics. When the focus is on the individual the same high level of incoherence can be found in the ranks of the one who speaks exclusively from a pastoral point of view. And, here's the point Matthew, when you have one who attempts to speak from the place of the academic, the mystic, and the ministry of pastoral care simultaneously then the degree of confusion skyrockets! It is perceived as a mish-mash at the very best! However, and here's where the rubber meets the road, this combined perspective is I think very representative of an American Orthodoxy and is what is unique to an American Orthodoxy, and this is what is vital to understanding and recognizing an American Orthodoxy! There is not a priority of the mind over the heart in an American Orthodoxy just as there is not a priority of the heart over the mind--it is the mind in the heart. I think, there is a huge integral aspect of an American Orthodoxy, a huge communal aspect (again as you have written) that innately transcends all divisions in Christ, including and especially the jurisdictional lines, limits, and boundaries. And, this is what needs to be recognized! Because left unchecked this will bring about an increasingly unhealthy view of the hierarchies in America, and then hierarchies in general. And, while I agree with you and Owen 100% that is ludicrous and naive to consider a top down structural unity, what I am suggesting now is something different. I appreciate Herman's love and respect for his bishop, but from where I sit, this is becoming an increasingly rare way of knowing in America. You see, bordering on resentment, the increasing disrespect and frustration shown for the hierarchies even here on Monachos very clearly (through the writing of others about their hierarchs). On an increasing basis the hiearchs are portrayed as being out of touch, distant, withdrawn, and impotent figureheads--objects of ridicule.

So on the one hand to not recognize an American Orthodoxy does not really matter. As has been said recently in another thread, just because a saint is not canonized does not mean he or she is not a saint, the lack of recognition (official or otherwise) does not change the reality of the situation. But, on the other hand if deaf ears and blind eyes continue towards the subject of an American Orthodoxy there will be consequences, there will be ramifications.

Possibly, in the End, while trying to find a place to land this thing, I can leave off with a proposition of sorts whereby the one who can recognize and define an American Orthodoxy is the same one who can recognize and define an Eastern Orthodoxy. Okay, maybe just one more . . . as we consider the original question in the first post of AO I, "Is there an American Orthodoxy" I would suggest that if there is no American Orthodoxy then there is no Eastern Orthodoxy.

There is so much in the posts above that I hope to backtrack with, I hope these don't get away (especially the sentiment expressed in Owen's most recent posts which perfectly demonstrates an AO). In America we as a culture definitely have our faults, but it can be a true blessing when either a prophet of God or someone in the gas and oil business is not afraid to call a spade a spade or to say the emperor has no clothes at times. And, as I think about the prophets of God who lived in the ancient near east it occurs to me now that possibly the act of crying out (or shouting it out) is not unique to America at all.

In Christ,
Rick

Edited by Rick H., 03 April 2008 - 02:26 PM.


#56 Owen Jones

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Posted 03 April 2008 - 01:23 PM

Memo to Rick: KISS

#57 Rick H.

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Posted 03 April 2008 - 01:30 PM

Memo to Rick: KISS


You must have been a lot of fun in the classroom at seminary Owen. I see what you have done with this, let's see if Matthew chooses to respond the same way.

In Christ,
Rick

PS Maybe you think this is a sermon?

#58 Rick H.

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 02:03 PM

The Patristic Mind/The Apostolic Spirit

Dear All,

I ran across this quote yesterday, and even though there are probably not many who will appreciate it in light of this discussion, I would like to place it right here, at this time.

I think this is not without direct implication to an American Orthodoxy . . . whether we are aware of it or not. In many ways, I think, this speaks also to recent discussions elsewhere about both the value of and what is the Patristic Mind as it is perceived and participated in by both the 'cradle' (born in N. America) and the 'converts' found in North America today:

Epistemology pertains to where we "take our stand" on what we believe. Christianity is not simply taking a stand on what we believe about Jesus Christ, but is the ontological presence and activity of the living Lord Jesus within and through the Christian.


And, this can have a wider application. But, yes, the treasury, Holy Tradition, the patristic mind, and an orthodox phronema . . . in some ways this is puzzling for Western/American Christians even though they often live and exemplify the apostolic spirit themselves unaware.

As John Meyendorff wrote:

In a way that is often puzzling for Western Christians, the Orthodox, when asked positively about the sources of their faith, answer in such concepts as the whole of Scripture, seen in the light of the tradition of the ancient Councils, the Fathers, and the faith of the entire people of God, expressed particularly in the liturgy. This appears to the outsiders as nebulous, perhaps romantic or mystical, and in any case inefficient and unrealistic (John Meyendorff, Catholicity and the Church, p. 100).




With the first quote above in mind, I wonder if any have an appetite for considering the patristic mind as it relates to an American Orthodoxy today? Namely, a consideration of the level of understanding of this concept in America as well as a consideration of the level of participation in the patristic mindset? For that matter (while resisting the temptation to form another spirtual IQ question) must the former be a prerequisite for the latter or vice versa?

In Christ,
Rick

Edited by Rick H., 13 April 2008 - 04:48 PM.


#59 Ken McRae

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Posted 13 April 2008 - 08:31 PM

The great criticism by Protestants is that liturgical churches are spiritually dead. That we do not have a "personal relationship" with God in Jesus Christ. While at one level this is an ill-informed judgment bordering on judgmentalism, it is not entirely without merit. And I think the spiritual power of Orthodox Christianity has yet to really be discovered by most Orthodox Christians in America, partly because it is so easy in a liturgical church to observe the outward forms without the inner transformation that they are based on ...

... But it seems to me that problems regarding Church polity really pale in importance to the problem of actually absorbing an Orthodox phronema towards the world around us.


While I realize the mixed emotions harboured by many Orthodox toward Bl. Seraphim Rose, (and yes, I do number him among the "blessed,") it is said of him that he acquired the mind of the Fathers, first, through his deep immersion into the Church's liturgical prayer cycle, second, through his close and spiritually penetrating study of the Patristic writings, and third, through his close personal contact with St. John of San Francisco.

Despite whatever legitimate criticisms that can be laid at his feet, Bl. Seraphim Rose continues to strike me as one who indeed entered deeply into the Patristic mind and experience, to a greater or lesser degree, depending on one's theological perspective. He is, for me, (despite his idiosyncracies,) a true model of "Western" Orthodoxy personified; and models, (for me at least,) its continuing potential, under the right formative influences.

One big problem, for me, though, is the language barrier. Granted, I don't often attend the Orthodox Church these days, but that is partly because of the language problem. When I use to frequently attend it, back in the late 90's, it was generally the OCA parish, though I visited several others as well. At that time, the priest of the OCA parish was using a considerable degree of English in the liturgy, though far below the 50% mark. On top of all that, the OCA priest (at that time) was not a preacher of any kind, whether good or bad, which further complicated matters.

Today, that same parish is nearly 100% Church Slavonic, due largely to the huge influx of Russian immigrants. To me, that is completely unacceptable. A true "North American" Orthodoxy for me is one that is predominantly English-speaking in its liturgical prayer-life. If I can't get an English liturgy in what is probably the largest OCA Parish in the country, what is the likelihood I'm going to find it anywhere else in the province, let alone within a reasonable distance from my own residence?

So, it is not so easy a thing for persons, in my situation, to "immerse" themselves in the Church's liturgical prayer cycle, (after the recent example of Bl. Seraphim Rose,) even if they whole-heartedly desired to do so. The language barrier is too highly restrictive, in that respect. The best I can possibly hope to do, I feel, under those circumstances, is mere outward conformity to the liturgical "forms," as I cannot possibly hope to enter into them very deeply, if at all, for said reasons.

So, I'm left to wonder if it is at all possible for any kind of Orthodox believer, whether cradle or convert, to actually acquire the mind of the Fathers, without being deeply immersed in the Church's liturgical prayer cycle; and without the penetrating study of Patristic writings; and most of all, without the benefit of a close personal relationship with at least one Orthodox Christian who has actually acquired that Patristic mind of Christ, to a greater or lesser degree, like either Bl. Seraphim Rose, or his spiritual mentor, St. John of San Francisco.

So, from where I stand, I must agree with Owen, that the liturgical experience for most persons in my shoes will be less than satisfying; at least until one can learn enough of the liturgical language to get by. Until then, it is more likely to be a kind of "dead" experience, save for the Holy Sacrament itself. I don't imagine the liturgical experience is going to be much more than that for most English-only speaking converts, under such conditions, and I hope to hear from some voices here that are in precisely that kind of predicament.

Regarding Owen's comment about how the Protestant perceives the Orthodox way of communicating with Jesus, in a personal way, I must confess to sometimes having the same problem myself. I mean, there has been more than one occasion in which I have read the biography of an Orthodox saint, that said precious little, if anything, about his/her close intimacy with Jesus himself; while yet there was no lack of information about their love and devotion to the Holy Theotokos, or the saints glorified in Christ.

The one thing that most Evangelical Protestants will look for in any Pastor, whether Orthodox or not, is a deep and discernable love for Jesus, that literally eclipses any love they might have for either the Theotokos herself or any of the saints, no matter how great they are. Despite my many criticisms of Evangelicals, I find it difficult to fault them on this. I can think of no good reason, as I write this, why any Orthodox Christian (or Catholic, for that matter,) should have a greater love for anyone, than for the precious Saviour of their soul!

#60 Rick H.

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 02:01 PM

While still pursuing "An American Orthodoxy: its nature, limits, and boundaries", I would like to share that I was reading the blog of a community member yesterday. In this blog, under the title "How Should We Approach What We Believe" there was some discussion about the personal and the subjective and the institutional and the objective.

Specifically, there was a quote from the introduction to On the Mystical Life, that caught my attention. And, this quote caused me to stop and ponder two things: 1.) The complete subjectivity of this thread about American Orthodoxy; 2.) Why does there need to be such a tension between the personal/subjective and the institutional/objective in Eastern Orthodoxy? And, to share this provocative quote in the following Alexander Golitzin, in the introduction to On the Mystical Life, says of St. Symeon the New Theologian:


He makes use of a long-established vocabulary of theological thought, of even older liturgical and ascetical traditions, and reads these traditional elements -- which he understands very well--through the lens of his own, personal experience. But there is no conflict, let alone rupture, between the last element and the preceding ones. Symeon is not an apostle of the personal and subjective over the objective and institutional -- though, as we will observe in our Introduction, he may strain certain tensions to their limits. Rather for him Orthodoxy and the ascetic tradition serve to illumine and define his experience while the latter provides the substantiation or proof, of the former."


This speaks to prior conversations about 'individualism' and 'personalism', I think. And, if I remember correctly Hannah was the last to chime in about western individualism as "the strongest barrier to an American Orthodoxy;" however, I wonder if any of the new blood here on monachos have any thoughts about the above?

As for myself, I see a beautiful harmony between the personal/institutional and the subjective/objective to be found within Eastern Orthodoxy and American Orthodoxy together, which results in the type of "radical personalism" that Fr. Dcn. Matthew was pointing to in a past discussion--which involved the thinking of John Zizioulas. (and just for the record, I do own more than one book [viz. 'Being as Communion]) . . . but I seem to keep reaching for this book almost each week, and now I am thinking of his essay on the local church and the universal church which are one in the same as it relates again here to a proposed consideration of particulars and universals (and aparticulars for any who remember that from AO I).

But, again, why do these so called tensions need to be strained to their limits, as was said of St. Symeon's approach . . . or to hold that up to the light and turn it a different way yet, lest we narrow our view severely within Eastern Orthodoxy how can these types of things be considered to be in opposition as it relates to a promotion of the Life in Christ?

In Christ,
Rick




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