Jump to content


Photo
* - - - - 1 votes

Pagan Christianity


  • Please log in to reply
94 replies to this topic

#41 Etsi JC Brigid W.

Etsi JC Brigid W.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 51 posts

Posted 08 November 2009 - 04:11 PM

Dear Cassiane,

The specific question of what is needed and suitable to you, personally, is something none here can answer - only your spiritual father, the priest of your parish.

But as for the Church, the Feast of the Nativity According to the Flesh of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (i.e. 'Christmas') is an essential part of the Church's life and worship; without it one does not have Orthodoxy.

But how your priest understands to best bring you into this understanding and practice is, as I say, something deeply personal that we could not (and ought not) pontificate on here. As Owen has said, this is part of the relationship of obedience that is your unique relationship with him.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

So the church doesn't hold to one specific view on this? My priest may say something different than another? That is puzzling to me.

I understand the recognising of the Nativity (Christ coming in the flesh, fully human and fully deity, through the Theotokos). I agree with that. I'm speaking more along the lines of what is commonly called Christmass. The taking over of a pagan day, when shepards would obviously not be out in the cold, and calling it holy. The taking over of pagan symbols, the tree, and calling them good. This is where I'm puzzled by Owen's comments on obedience. Do you understand?

I'm afraid we keep cross posting. I keep trying to reply to a post before the one that shows up by the time I'm done typing lol. And ya'll definitely gave me things to bring up to Fr.

#42 Owen Jones

Owen Jones

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,341 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 08 November 2009 - 04:35 PM

I guess the question is whether or not the wisdom of the Church far transcends my own personal wisdom. As to the matter of what constitutes conversion, it is not just a matter of consenting to certain doctrines. It's about being changed, a revolution within the person, so to speak. And it's not just a once and for all event, although Baptism and our first participation in the Eucharist are unique events with unique power and meaning. But it's not just a question of what all this (Orthodoxy) means. It's not just about meaning and purpose, but about a real change in our nature that enables us to look at everything through a different set of eyes, to hear things with a different set of ears, and to taste, touch and feel reality with sense organs that now perceive spiritual realities. Trying to understanding the meaning can serve either as a handmaiden or an obstacle.

#43 Etsi JC Brigid W.

Etsi JC Brigid W.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 51 posts

Posted 08 November 2009 - 04:53 PM

I guess the question is whether or not the wisdom of the Church far transcends my own personal wisdom. As to the matter of what constitutes conversion, it is not just a matter of consenting to certain doctrines. It's about being changed, a revolution within the person, so to speak. And it's not just a once and for all event, although Baptism and our first participation in the Eucharist are unique events with unique power and meaning. But it's not just a question of what all this (Orthodoxy) means. It's not just about meaning and purpose, but about a real change in our nature that enables us to look at everything through a different set of eyes, to hear things with a different set of ears, and to taste, touch and feel reality with sense organs that now perceive spiritual realities. Trying to understanding the meaning can serve either as a handmaiden or an obstacle.

Owen, you are describing salvation (I am, am being, and will be). Something I'm already familiar with. I'm not coming from a heathen background, nor am I a heathen. I am converting from the only Christianity I had access to to the Christianity from which it came. It doesn't mean that I've been floating around with absolutely no ability to understand and thus must be told what to do. Understanding is definitely a handmaiden. To not attempt to help me understand will definitely be an obstacle. It was like your comment on the thread about the eye...you gave a non-answer. I do not understand this kind of response. And the the way that kind of response appears to those asking the question is not a positive one, though one wants to think the best intentions of the one responding. I guess this is where Common Ground speaks about East and West speaking different languages. Though with you being in the US, I would've thought you had an idea of where I was coming from and where I'm trying to get to :(

I also do not understand what salvation and the change that Gd does in us has to do with accepting the pagan practices of Christmass (note: I am differentiating Christmass from Nativity...the Nativity having been an event that happened and you can read about in Scripture).


I'll bring it up to my priest. And no, I'm not being coerced, but I expect to be convinced. It is the way of things and involves Understanding, not passive blind acceptance.

#44 Etsi JC Brigid W.

Etsi JC Brigid W.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 51 posts

Posted 08 November 2009 - 07:18 PM

My husband brought up The History Of Epiphany http://www.goarch.or...th/ourfaith8383 which was VERY helpful.

If this had been brought up or the topic at least discussed and answered, rather than feeling like I was getting the brush off, it would have helped much.

#45 Deacon Jonathan

Deacon Jonathan

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 210 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 08 November 2009 - 08:29 PM

Whilst it is true that there are various mid-winter festivals pre-dating the Incarnation in pagan religions, it is worth looking at what they are celebrating. These festivals can be traced to the winter time phenomenon where in the Northern Hemisphere the sun reaches its lowest point in the sky, and we get the "shortest day". After this - miraculously - the days start growing longer, and we begin the journey out of winter and into the rebirth of spring. Are these natural cycles "pagan"? Of course not, the seasons are under the dominion of our Creator, the Trinune God. Because of this, I would certainly shy away from calling the seasons of the earth "unholy". I also, therefore, think the marking of these seasons to be appropriate - though of course it can be observed in an inappropriate way.

So, what the Church do? Early on (though no doubt after the NT scriptures had been written), the Church started to celebrate the birth of Christ during the mid-winter. How perfect is this? In the depth of winter - while pagans celebrate the return of the sun - Christians celebrate the coming of Christ into the world. The parallels are obvious but the differences are key too: while the pagans wrongly worship matter and God's creation, we Christians rightly see nature (that which God called good) as a reflection and image of its source. It is the source - Christ the Word of God - whom we worship. To me it makes absolute perfect sense to celebrate the coming of Christ into the world at the point when the cold, hard winter almost literally starts to melt away. And even more beautifully, the end of winter brings the rebirth of spring, which is when we celebrate the Resurrection*! As I mentioned before, to celebrate in this way is not "copying" paganism: the pagans only celebrated these times of the year because of what nature so powerfully reveals, and nature is nothing but the creation of God. Before the Incarnation, the pagans - in a similar, yet distinct, way to the Jews - had a veil over their hearts, worshiping the revelation of God in nature rather than God Himself. The Son of God becoming man reveals to us that the seasons and natural cycles are significant, as the pagans knew, but not in and of themselves, but because they shadowed the story of mankind's salvation: Christ's birth, ministry, death, and resurrection.

I probably should have added the term "redeeming time" to the above response, but carelessly left it out. But this is at least one foundational reason why we Christians have many festivals throughout the year: the redeeming of time, dates, seasons, history, and seeing in them Christ the Son of God.





*But of course the Resurrection did happen in spring: the date of Easter is related to the date of Passover (always the Sunday after Passover has finished, I think); whether near the beginning or near the end, the Passover and Easter do fall in spring. It is fantastic that God would plan the historical fact of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ to happen during the season when all of nature itself was being reborn. You probably know that Easter is on a Sunday because this was the historical day Christ rose from the tomb: the third day after His crucifixion, the day after the Sabbath (Saturday). Here there is no aping of pagan customs: we are celebrating historical days.

#46 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 08 November 2009 - 08:49 PM

I also do not understand what salvation and the change that Gd does in us has to do with accepting the pagan practices of Christmass (note: I am differentiating Christmass from Nativity...the Nativity having been an event that happened and you can read about in Scripture).

I'll bring it up to my priest. And no, I'm not being coerced, but I expect to be convinced. It is the way of things and involves Understanding, not passive blind acceptance.


How do you differentiate Christmas from Nativity? If you equate "Christmas" with "Santa Claus" and holly and decorated trees and all that stuff, then I am right there with you. I prefer "Nativity" to "Christmas" myself and would point out that while personal practice may confuse the two, the Church does not. The Church fasts before the Nativity, and celebrates afterwards, even if some partake of pre-Christmas parties and have Christmas trees and decorate their houses with Santa Claus, that is not endemic to Orthodoxy.

If you object to celebrating the birth of Christ on 25 December, then I guess you skip Church that day, but you separate yourself from the brethren and the Holy Apostle Paul tells us not to forsake the gathering of the brethren. The Church reclaims time as part of the reclamation of creation, we base our cycle of worship on a calendar, we have spiritual seasons, even if the pagans celebrate the agrarian seasons, God gave us the cycle of the seasons to proclaim His glory, and all we are doing is acknowledging that.

I guess I (and I think a few others here) are not quite understanding your point, evidently what we think we are answering is not your question, I think that is why you are having trouble accepting our answers.

So let me ask a few questions so that we might better understand what you are trying to say:

Do you not accept recognizing and celebrating the birth of Christ on a specific day? Or do you object to celebrating the Nativity as a "substitute" for a previously pagan holiday? Or do you think that Holy Days, are not a good idea?

I am just trying to understand where you are coming from, that is all. I am, after all, but a bear of very little brain.

Herman the Pooh

#47 Etsi JC Brigid W.

Etsi JC Brigid W.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 51 posts

Posted 08 November 2009 - 09:06 PM

Jonathan Michael (I smiled as I read your name as you share a name with one of my sons :) ):

I agree. Because I have seen this played and replayed as simply recognising what is part of nature, I'm fine with that. However, the winter solstice is on Dec 21st, not 25th ;) But yes, a beautiful point. Much like the Celts would have made.


Herman:

The issue from my understanding has been the replacing of a specific pagan holy day...that celebrating the birth of Tammuz...when Christ was not born in the winter (shepherds would not be out with their flocks, not have their flocks out, on a cold winter night). And yes, also the trappings that come along...hewing down a tree and decorating it with gold and silver (there is a verse speaking against such, let alone the representation of the evergreen to Tammuz), etc. I've tried hard to keep a clear conscience on this matter. Most pagans and those of other faiths laugh at much of Christianity here in America for their ignorance on the matter. Even they recognise what most do not. This stand has helped open others up to hearing about my faith in the past.

#48 Etsi JC Brigid W.

Etsi JC Brigid W.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 51 posts

Posted 08 November 2009 - 09:10 PM

As a Protestant (converting), we agreed with this, but the "old" and "fulfilled" was in reference to Judaism of which there are types and shadows of what was to come. On one hand, I ask where you pull in paganism as being included in this equation. On the other hand, I see where early Christian Celts, where at the time there weren't Judaic understanding and exposure, used paganism in just such a way.



This is what I was initially seeking an answer to, Herman. But it spun far and away from it.

#49 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 08 November 2009 - 09:33 PM

This is what I was initially seeking an answer to, Herman. But it spun far and away from it.


A couple of thoughts and then I'm done. We are reclaiming Creation. We bless things; water, oil, bread, wine, each other, and we bless possessions; homes, vehicles, and things we use. We also bless the seasons, reclaiming even time in the Name of Christ the Lord. Pascha is not celebrated "historically" in that we do not necessarily celebrate it the exact same day it historically happened, it is a "moveable" feast, that being a decision the Church made early on so that we would all celebrate it together. In a sense, it was somewhat arbitrary, but a particular way of fixing the date was selected. The same is true for the Nativity. We don't know exactly what day it actually happened, the Scriptural narratives are not very clear on the subject, evidently the "when" was not seen as that important by the Gospel authors. Evidently a day that competed with pagan celebrations was picked. Again, I simply see it as the Church "reclaiming" the seasons.

Do you have to have holly wreaths and Christmas trees to be Orthodox? Absolutely not, these things have been imported from western traditions and are not really part of Orthodoxy, although if some are "reclaiming" them as Orthodox Christians, I have no problems with that. I know of Russian Orthodox who specifically forbade Christmas trees and such (too "German" for their tastes and not specifically Orthodox).

But then we have the example of the Russian mission to the natives of Alaska. They had no problem with appropriating certain local pagan customs and giving them Christian meanings. Your mileage may vary I guess.

Herman the Pooh, peace out!

#50 Etsi JC Brigid W.

Etsi JC Brigid W.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 51 posts

Posted 08 November 2009 - 09:55 PM

A couple of thoughts and then I'm done. We are reclaiming Creation. We bless things; water, oil, bread, wine, each other, and we bless possessions; homes, vehicles, and things we use. We also bless the seasons, reclaiming even time in the Name of Christ the Lord. Pascha is not celebrated "historically" in that we do not necessarily celebrate it the exact same day it historically happened, it is a "moveable" feast, that being a decision the Church made early on so that we would all celebrate it together. In a sense, it was somewhat arbitrary, but a particular way of fixing the date was selected. The same is true for the Nativity. We don't know exactly what day it actually happened, the Scriptural narratives are not very clear on the subject, evidently the "when" was not seen as that important by the Gospel authors. Evidently a day that competed with pagan celebrations was picked. Again, I simply see it as the Church "reclaiming" the seasons.

Do you have to have holly wreaths and Christmas trees to be Orthodox? Absolutely not, these things have been imported from western traditions and are not really part of Orthodoxy, although if some are "reclaiming" them as Orthodox Christians, I have no problems with that. I know of Russian Orthodox who specifically forbade Christmas trees and such (too "German" for their tastes and not specifically Orthodox).

But then we have the example of the Russian mission to the natives of Alaska. They had no problem with appropriating certain local pagan customs and giving them Christian meanings. Your mileage may vary I guess.

Herman the Pooh, peace out!

Thank you, that was very helpful :)

#51 Deacon Jonathan

Deacon Jonathan

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 210 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 08 November 2009 - 10:08 PM

Dear Cassiane,

Looking at the earlier post you quote, it looks like my own reply to you was just me telling you things you already know:

On the other hand, I see where early Christian Celts, where at the time there weren't Judaic understanding and exposure, used paganism in just such a way.

This is my fault for not reading the thread through properly. Good point on the date of the winter solstice - this goes to show that human inventions like calendars can only do an imperfect job of tracking the and measuring the time.

So, the Christmas festival itself is a redeeming of time, and as Herman has already said, the other symbols and practices are redeemed things as well. But of course it does get a bit complicated, as not all practices and symbols are equal.

And actually I do understand why you might feel uncomfortable about some things. It is all very well redeeming a pagan symbol like a holly wreath and giving it a new meaning in the light of Christ (in this case representing the crown of thorns, complete with berry red drops of blood), but it becomes less useful if Christians themselves don't know this "new" meaning, or are dull to discovering it for themselves. In such cases the barriers between worshiping the Creator and the created symbols can become a little weaker. However I must say that this is not something I have noticed within Orthodoxy, and is a testament to its strength (and truth).

It would be too tedious to go through all the different "Christmassy" things to see which are Orthodox and which are not. Potentially, they all are (i.e. they are all redeemable) but that doesn't mean all have been at this moment in time. Personally, I've never seen a Christmas tree in an Orthodox church, but then I have mainly experience of parishes with Russian backgrounds. Christmas trees are certainly a practice of north Europe (primarily German) origin.

One thing on paganism though. The history of pagan religion may be long, but the strength of its tradition is weak (or at least it seems so to me). Most pagan practices known of today by modern pagans cannot easily be traced back to pre-Christian roots. They can be certainly traced back a long way, but rarely before the Gospel was introduced to a particular tribe/nation. I strongly suspect that many "rediscovered" pagan rites and rituals are actually Christian practices peculiar to local areas. These practices may have pagan origins, but the precise nature of these origins are lost to us today. They are lost to us because the power of Christ overcame the old superstitions; only the form - not the substance - remains. We Christians (me and you) are not superstitious and don't believe in magic spells, so these traditions have no power except that which Christ gives them. Well anyway, this is from my experience of reading modern pagan writings; I confess I might not have read as much as you on the subject.

#52 Father David Moser

Father David Moser

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 3,581 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Cleric

Posted 09 November 2009 - 12:39 AM

I would like to broaden the field a bit here. None of the feasts of the Church are "optional" as they are all interconnected (especially the 12 Great Feasts). All of the feasts point in one way or another to the incarnation and to discount the feast is to discount the incarnation (without which we would not have anything).

OTOH, how we celebrate the feasts is another question entirely. Without denying that Jesus was God incarnate, born of a virgin, fully God and fully man, one could easily be reticent to participate in all the customs that surround the feast (the tree, the lights, the gifts, the carols - all that stuff). It is important however to consider the balance of the life of the Church. Our Holy Mother Church gives us both times of fasting and times of feasting. If we fast without feasting, then we linger on the brink of despair - but if we feast without fasting then we fall into negligence and inattention. We need the balance, we need both the feast and the fast.

For someone who came from a tradition without celebrating feasts, it is probably true that this tradition does also not keep the fasts. If a person from such a tradition were to begin keeping the fasts, then the necessity of keeping the feasts would soon become evident. We cannot have only feasting or only fasting, but we must have both for our own spiritual and emotional health and well being.

But to single out one or two feasts (even if they are the greatest feasts of the Church year) and go ahead with all the other feasts (since maybe the resistance to them had never developed) is foolishness. All of the tradition of the Church is given to us for our spiritual benefit and well being, why would we seek to reject any part of it simply because its not what we were used to in some other non-Orthodox environment.

Fr David Moser

#53 Etsi JC Brigid W.

Etsi JC Brigid W.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 51 posts

Posted 09 November 2009 - 01:48 AM

Please know that I'm not rejecting the observance of the feasts and fasts. I'm on board there. It was all the other "stuff". And when someone says going to church for Nativity or Epiphany and having service, that is one thing to me. When someone says celebrate Christmas, that is another thing to me. I'm not against exchanging a couple of gifts with the grandparents (it would be worse to deny them over a little thing) is not even a big thing as long as it's not done in extreme. They know we like simplicity and respect that as well.

Jonathan and Fr David, I think you two really hit it for me and the rest is something that I have to work through.

But my question is still: Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism...but are those in this thread also saying that it's a completion of paganism, or a righting of?

#54 Owen

Owen

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 163 posts

Posted 09 November 2009 - 02:27 AM

Yes, both!

#55 Owen Jones

Owen Jones

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,341 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 09 November 2009 - 03:17 AM

The way Christmas is celebrated in America outside the Church certainly gives pause to a lot of us, but it's really a matter of conscience I think, not a Church dogma one way or the other. If having a Christmas tree is a problem because of its pagan connotations, don't do it, but really the Church embraces including folk customs where appropriate. Ever been to a Greek festival????

#56 Owen Jones

Owen Jones

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,341 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 09 November 2009 - 03:21 AM

btw, it was the Calvinists and Puritans who went to great lengths to ban Christmas as it was being celebrated culturally because they claimed it was a pagan holiday. That's where all of this comes from. Orthodoxy is neither Calvinistic or Puritan.

#57 Etsi JC Brigid W.

Etsi JC Brigid W.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 51 posts

Posted 09 November 2009 - 03:54 AM

The way Christmas is celebrated in America outside the Church certainly gives pause to a lot of us, but it's really a matter of conscience I think, not a Church dogma one way or the other. If having a Christmas tree is a problem because of its pagan connotations, don't do it, but really the Church embraces including folk customs where appropriate. Ever been to a Greek festival????


Yes LOL! But did not see anything that I could object to.

btw, it was the Calvinists and Puritans who went to great lengths to ban Christmas as it was being celebrated culturally because they claimed it was a pagan holiday. That's where all of this comes from. Orthodoxy is neither Calvinistic or Puritan.


Uhm, that is the background I'm coming from. Which is why I'm laying it out and trying to work through it.

#58 Mary

Mary

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 800 posts

Posted 09 November 2009 - 07:56 PM

But my question is still: Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism...but are those in this thread also saying that it's a completion of paganism, or a righting of?


Yes!!! And that is what is so exciting! Of course, the link between Judaism is the easiest to see, because that's where all the detailed prophesies come from. But the wise men who came to worship Jesus, were not Jews. They worshiped stars, as it says in the nativity hymn. The first time I heard that hymn, it filled me up with so much joy that I thought I'd burst! God truly does find all those who seek Him, even if they're using strange ways to find Him. They like stars? Then He'll use the stars to guide them to Himself. Isn't that cool?!

My other sources - believe it or not - are protestant. Missionary stories of people who went to tribes and nations in the middle of nowhere and tried to convert people. And in learning about the people, found legends and traditions and linguistic expressions that in some way resembled Judaism/Christianity and they were able to use those old stories as a starting point, to tell those people about Christ.

The group of people that we used to work with, had an interesting ceremony that had nothing to do with water, but they called it: "Being born again".

There's little stars like that, scattered everywhere - and even whole constellations in the protestant churches. Things they're already familiar with - and Orthodox Christianity shows them how it all fits in the right place, what it all truly means, brings it all to life - fulfills all their hopes. We have no excuse for not following those stars.

in Christ,
Mary.

#59 Etsi JC Brigid W.

Etsi JC Brigid W.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 51 posts

Posted 09 November 2009 - 09:37 PM

Thank you, Mary. Very good points. I will have to admit though to having not heard the "Nativity Hymn" as of yet. This will be our first Nativity feast. I don't know what they hymn or Orthodox teaching is, but I never heard that the wisemen worshiped the stars before, merely that they were readers of the stars, which is quite different.

#60 Mary

Mary

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 800 posts

Posted 09 November 2009 - 10:10 PM

Thank you, Mary. Very good points. I will have to admit though to having not heard the "Nativity Hymn" as of yet. This will be our first Nativity feast. I don't know what they hymn or Orthodox teaching is, but I never heard that the wisemen worshiped the stars before, merely that they were readers of the stars, which is quite different.


Oh, sorry Etsi,

I thought you might've read the previous posts. It is quoted in Post #23:

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shined upon the world the light of knowledge; for thereby, they that worshipped the stars were taught by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory be to Thee.

How long have you been looking into orthodoxy? You know, if this is your first nativity season, then, you have no concerns. Go to church, pay attention to the scripture readings and the hymns, and also take a look at the saints commemorated during this season of preparation, and you'll see how we cannot have orthodoxy without celebrating the nativity. It is totally glorious. Makes every other "Christmas" I ever celebrated, seem like it was pagan, even though it wasn't!

In regard to studying the stars & worshiping them, I believe the difference is most obvious only in present times, where astronomy has nothing to do with astrology. However, the result of the study that the Wise Men did sounds more like astrology than astronomy to me. How did they know, so accurately, that a King was born - and not just any king, but a King who deserved to be worshipped? What kind of signs had they seen in the skies that announced the birth of kings? I wonder if anyone can read the stars today, as they did.

in Christ,
mary

PS - don't stop looking at the commemorations after Christmas - only the orthodox church remembers all those infants that Herod murdered in Bethlehem. That made me weep, and at the same time, it filled me with joy, because all those innocent little martyrs haven't been forgotten by the Church for all these years. Life and death side by side. Joy and Sorrow like two sides of the same coin. There seems to be this constant tension in orthodoxy that seems to be capable of creating some kind of balance.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users