Friday, November 17, 2017

Taking Orthodoxy As It Is


Fr. Marc Dunaway, who was one of the leaders of the Antiochian Evangelical Orthodox Mission, which 30 years ago was received into the Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Phillip. He is the rector of the Saint John the Evangelist Cathedral in Eagle River, Alaska, and he wrote an essay earlier this year in which he laid out his suggestions for how we should take Orthodoxy to America, in the light of his experience of the last three decades:
Taking Orthodoxy to America -- Thirty Years Later
Much of what he says in this essay reflects an approach to the Church that Fr. Marc might have written 30 years ago, because it has more to do with the Protestant Church growth movement's approach to giving people what they want than it does with Orthodox Tradition.

He writes:
"The worship of the Church must clearly be a common, corporate act where everyone participates according to his role, whether as priest or deacon, reader or lay person, man or woman. Practically this means we need to encourage congregational singing of the main, regular hymns in every service. This is something many Americans expect when they “go to Church.” They want to sing, and there are plenty of beautiful Orthodox hymns that will make this possible."
While the full participation of the laity in the services is certainly a good thing, one common way that the laity have participated fully in the services is by simply coming to the services, standing in prayer, and receiving the mysteries. One doesn't have to be "doing something" else in order to fully participate.

Also, while there are some traditions of congregational singing in the Orthodox Church, such as among the Carpatho-Russians, congregational singing has not been the norm for most Orthodox Christians. In Russian practice the laity are usually encourage to sing along with the Creed and the "Our Father", but generally it is the choir that sings the rest of the services. Though nothing prevents anyone from singing along with the choir if they wish to. And if they sing well, they are generally welcomed to join the choir.
"The prayers of the priest, especially those in the Divine Liturgy, need to be said aloud so that all can hear and knowledgeably give their assent with a meaningful “Amen.” Happily, this same exhortation is also put forth in the recent book, The Heavenly Banquet by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis, a priest from the Greek tradition, and by many other respected liturgists and teachers as well."
I've address this issue recently in another article (See: Stump the Priest: Secret Prayers), but here again, the Tradition of the Church has been very clear on this issue, and so I would ask why exactly is it that we "need" to say these prayers aloud, and on the basis of what in the Tradition of the Church does Fr. Marc come to this conclusion?
The Kiss of Peace (whether as a hand-shake or an embrace) in the Divine Liturgy should be exchanged among the people and not just by the concelebrating clergy at the altar. This is a custom stemming from biblical times, and its falling into dis-use may have weakened the participation of the people and undermined their identity as the people of God, united to one another in Christian love. A few may frown at the bustle this causes, but for the laity it is meaningful, as long as the dialogue is kept to the liturgical greeting, “Christ is in our midst. He is and ever shall be.”
I don't think we have a clear idea of how the kiss of peace may have functioned among the laity in the early Church, but we have to assume that the Holy Spirit has guided the Church, and that there are reasons why the Tradition is the way that we have received it. I spoke some years ago to a pious Orthodox lay woman who was attending a parish in which the practice Fr. Marc describes had been imposed, and she told me that she and several other single women had to stand in the back of the Church and make themselves scarce during this demonstration, because single men always seemed to seek them out especially, and they found the attention creepy. If there was anything like this practice in the early Church, perhaps the holiness of the average layman at that time prevented such problems, but we are not in the early Church. We don't impose strict discipline to prevent wayward members from being in the Church for the Eucharist, and so we can't selectively try to emulate their practices and have them work the same way they may have worked back then.
"The language of the Liturgy has to be the language of the people. The language of modern America is not Shakespearean English, and it makes little sense to perpetuate “Thee’s” and “Thou’s” and archaic verb forms in our prayers. If we do, we may eventually end up in the same situation as the modern Russians and Greeks, who use a liturgical language that is incomprehensible to the common people."
For more details on this issue, see: King James English and Orthodox Worship, but the Tradition of the Church has never been to translate the services into the language of the street, but rather to use an elevated form of the language in question. And while there are some obscurities in texts from 400 years ago, most Orthodox texts do not use the real obscurities you find occasionally in the King James text of the Bible, and so are not at all difficult to understand.

Not long ago someone asked me about a Chinese Orthodox liturgical text that they had found, and they sent me a photo of some of the text. I asked my wife (who neither grew up in an English speaking country, nor speaking English, much less Shakespearean English) what it said, and after more than 25 years of hearing the services in Traditional Liturgical English, she e-mailed back a quick translation of several of the hymns, which she very naturally did using the King James English she had become familiar with, and she did it without any errors in the forms of the pronouns or the verbs. If someone from Guizhou, China, can understand that form of English, I think the average American who was born here can as well.
"Feast day liturgies need to be done at a time when working people can attend. This means either Vesperal-Liturgies in the early evening on the Eve of a Feast or else, on some occasions, an evening Liturgy on the Day of the Feast itself. Rigidly insisting that weekday Liturgies be done in the mid-morning while most people have to work deprives sincere Christians of an essential part the liturgical life of the Church."
For more details on the problems with this suggestion, see: Why doing Vesperal Liturgies in the place of the appointed services is a bad idea, but this approach shows a lack of understanding of what Vesperal Liturgies are for. Vesperal Liturgies that are actually called for in the Typikon are always appointed on days of fasting, and this is because on a strict fast, one would traditionally not eat or drink anything all day, until the evening, at which time they might eat some simple meal. Thus Vesperal Liturgies put off the liturgy until evening for that purpose. In the practice that Fr. Marc proposes, instead of doing the Vesperal Liturgy for a fast day, you take the Liturgy of a Feast day, and tack it onto a truncated version of the Vespers of the Feast, and cut out almost all of the actual hymnody and readings of the Feast. As such, it is an abuse, which significantly distorts the Liturgical Tradition of the Church.
"The Iconostasis of the Church needs to be open enough to give a view of the Altar and to let the people know they are co-celebrants of the Liturgy and not passive spectators to something performed for them by the clergy."
This Vatican II inspired notion that the people need to see everything actually has the opposite effect of the one suggested. Traditionally, people stand, and pray, and they mostly see Icons, which help them to pray. When everyone is seated in pews, and everything is done for their viewing, they are made into the very passive spectators that Fr. Marc hopes to prevent them from becoming.
"A super-size Icon of the Mother of God in the apse of the Church may be a beautiful liturgical statement about how she is a picture of the praying Church, but it will confuse most people in America. There are other legitimate Icons that can be put in this location, such as the Mystical Supper or the Ascension, and we would be wise to draw from these, if we do not want some people to walk into the Church and walk right out even before they hear an explanation."
This is, again, the Protestant Church growth movement way of looking at the services. Tailor the services to attract the most people, and make them "seeker sensitive". Traditionally, however, evangelism is what we do outside of the context of worship. The worship services are for the already converted believer, who (if he really has converted) will not object to the Traditional placement of iconography.
"Every parish should have a deacon or two and the vision of multiple clergy in a parish needs to become standard. This is an important way we can energize the lay people to use their own gifts and accomplish all the work of the Church that needs done. (And perhaps the emerging movement to restore deaconesses will find traction and someday be blessed as well.)"
I would agree that having a deacon on a parish level is a good thing, and it certainly makes the services flow much more smoothly. However, deacons are not laymen, and so making more deacons is not going to particularly energize the laity. And the problem with the proposals for "restoring" deaconesses is that the proposals are not that we restore deaconesses to do what they actually were in ancient times, but to make them into female deacons, which is quite a different matter. This is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to push the ordination of women priests. For more on why that is a bad idea I would recommend this discussion between Fr. Chad Hatfield and Fr. Lawrence Farley: Voices from St. Vladimir: Deaconesses.
"Converts should not be required to change their names when they are baptized, chrismated or ordained. Of course, every Orthodox Christian should have a patron saint, but here in a new, Orthodox land, we need to sanctify new names just as happened in other lands in times past. Orthodoxy is the universal Church, embracing all cultures and all people, including their names."
If someone who converts as an adult has a perfectly good Christian name, I always encourage them to keep it. But when Orthodoxy has gone to new lands it has always baptized people using Christian names, and though the people may not always have used those names in their day to day lives, they at least used them in Church. If you take St. Vladimir, for an example, we know him as "St. Vladimir" and that name is now a Christian name, but we still remember that in baptism, his name was "Basil". He did not simply have St. Basil as his patron saint, he had "Basil" as his Christian name.
"Finally, Orthodox clergy should consider whether it is wise to routinely dress in cassocks, vests and traditional hats “around town.” The ancient “Epistle to Diognetus” says early Christians were distinguished by their piety not their dress. Perhaps someday we will have an attire for American Orthodox clergy that does not stand out as strange and at the same time distinguishes us from Roman Catholic clergy."
There are some logical flaws here. The epistle to Diognetus is speaking about the average layman, and it was also written during times of the persecution of the Church. But also, Fr. Marc is not suggesting that Orthodox clergy dress like laymen, and so this hardly advances his argument. He rather is arguing that we adopt a style of clergy attire that does not seem strange, but which also distinguishes our clergy from Roman Catholic clergy. But this also presents a problem, because either the attire will be like what people are used to (and therefore similar to either Roman Catholic or Protestant clerical attire), or it will be distinguished from them, and therefore be different from what most people are used to. Furthermore, it wasn't all that long ago when Roman Catholic clergy wore cassocks that were relatively close in their appearance to the Traditional attire of Orthodox Clergy.


In the classic Bing Crosby movie, Going My Way (1944)Barry Fitzgerald played the old Irish priest Father Fitzgibbon, and he is seen wearing an old fashioned Roman Catholic cassock as well as a clerical biretta which looks no less odd than an Orthodox skufia.

Aside from that, in the 27th Canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, it was decreed that:
"None who is counted with the clergy should dress inappropriately, when in the city, nor when travelling. Each should use the attire which was appointed for clergy members. If someone breaks this rule, may he be deprived of serving for one week."
And so Orthodox priests should be dressed in accordance with the Orthodox Tradition.

An Orthodox priest who is dressed in traditional clerical attire is easily identified, and that is why the practice exists. It makes it easy for people to recognize him, and so they are able to approach him for blessings and to ask for prayers, or for help with other spiritual needs. It also reminds the priest of who he is, and what he is supposed to be. I have had countless conversations with Orthodox and Non-Orthodox people alike that would not likely have happened if I was either wearing street clothes, or dressed like a Roman Catholic priest. And with the unfortunate reputation that Catholic priests have acquired in recent decades, particularly when it comes to children, I was always glad that when I was out in public with my own children that I was not assumed to be a Roman Catholic priest.

Conclusion

There are real problems in the Church that need to be addressed, and there are abuses that have become entrenched in some areas that deserve to be challenged, but a proper Orthodox approach to Orthodox Tradition is that when it comes to the authentic Traditions of the Church, we do not try to change them, but rather we strive to let them change us.

There are many things that we can learn from Protestants and Roman Catholics. Even the Church Growth movement has some things that we can actually use (for example, there are some sociological realities in terms of Church Growth that are helpful to know (see, for example some of the points made in Starting a Mission and Building a Parish). But when it comes to how we do our services, or to traditional Orthodox piety, we need to humbly follow the best examples of the Tradition that has been handed down to us from the saints that have gone before us. We need to drink from our own well, and not seek out broken cisterns (Jeremiah 2:13).

For More Information:

Renewing the Mind: Acquiring an Orthodox outlook

Unfortunate Trends in the Roman Catholic Church (where modernist liturgical reform ends up)

Friday, November 10, 2017

Cultural Marxism and Public Orthodoxy


One could make a career of responding to all of the nonsense that "Public Orthodoxy" spews on a regular basis.

Recently, Ashley Purpura has made the unlikely argument that the services of the Church somehow promote gender fluidity, in her [dare I presume her binary gender?] article: "Beyond the Binary: Hymnographic Constructions of Orthodox Gender,"which begins with the manifestly ridiculous assertion:
"Much like gender itself, Orthodox understandings of gender span a spectrum of diverse views."
Of course, anyone with any concern for the truth who actually knows anything about the Orthodox Church knows that this is not even slightly true. There is not the most microbial fragment of a basis for such an absurd claim. Not even the remotest hint of such a microbial fragment....

But how does this presumably intelligent and educated woman come to make such a baseless statement? One has to be extremely mal-educated to ignore all of the evidence to the contrary of her thesis.

To provide the thinest of a veneer of something like evidence, she argues that there are hymns that celebrate the bravery and endurance of certain women martyrs that speak of their "manly" courage. And so we have to assume that Orthodox monks, who for the most part are the authors of such hymns, secretly wished to promote gender fluidity.

What other evidence does she cite? Well, in our hymns, male chanters sometimes read hymns that speak in the voice of women characters. For example, at the feast of the Annunciation, at the canon, there is a dialogue between the Archangel Gabriel and the the Virgin Mary, and so the fact that a man would read this canon is somehow an example of "gender-bending." By this logic, no one could ever read the Bible aloud without falling into "gender-bending" at some point, since they will inevitably speak words that were spoken by members of the opposite sex.

And so we are supposed to conclude that centuries before anyone ever knew that gender-bending was a thing, the hymns of the Church expressed a widely diverse perspective on gender, and embraced the notion that gender is "fluid"

But then Ms. Purpura asks how it is that the hymns of the Church could embrace gender fluidity when "so much elsewhere in the tradition... reinforces gender expression exclusively along an essentialized binary". Of course the simple solution to this concocted problem is to come to the reasonable, and historically defensible conclusion that Ms. Purpura's starting premise is nonsense, and then no such problem exists.

But the most perplexing question here is how it is possible for someone who is educated and intelligent to come to a conclusion that is so obviously lacking in any actual basis in history or evidence? Well, if we look at her bio at Purdue University, we find the answer. There we find that she
"...reevaluates Byzantine constructions of ecclesiastical hierarchy in light of critical theory...." 
What does that mean? That means she uses a Marxist approach on the material she studies. See the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Critical Theory:
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/critical-theory/
Critical Theory seeks to analyze what it studies in terms of Marxist theories of class struggle, and to identify who the oppressors are, and who are the oppressed in any given context, and to interpret their subject matter in ways that liberate the oppressed. So you see, Ms. Purpura most likely does not really believe that centuries of Orthodox monks have been promoting ideas of gender fluidity, but the LGBTQWXYZ community today is (in her view) "oppressed" by ""cisgendered" Orthodox, and so if she can "reinterpret" Orthodox hymnody in a way that helps to liberate the oppressed, it doesn't really matter what the actual truth is, it only matters that the oppressed are liberated from their oppressors.

And all of this is designed simply to overturn the existing order, in order to pave the way for something new. Never mind that the history of Marxism, when put into practice has resulted in the worst slaughter and misery the human race has ever seen. Truth doesn't matter, because, they hope that just maybe... despite all human experience up until now, the next attempts at a Marxist utopia will work in practice as well as its devotees think it works in theory.

One has to wonder, at what point does Archbishop Demetrios in particular and the Greek Archdiocese in general, become bothered by their close association with the so-called "Orthodox Christian Studies Center" at Fordham University, which so consistently promotes the LGBTQWXYZ agenda, not to mention pretty much everything else they publish contrary to actual Orthodox Christian teaching.

Update: In the fuller version of the article, which is referenced at the end, and found here:

http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/693162

We find the following statement which crosses the line into outright blasphemy:
"Despite stemming from a Byzantine tradition that sanctifies a literary corpus of transvestite or andromimetic nuns, homoerotic mystical imagery, and a patristic tradition of resolving gender division on the path to salvation, present-day Orthodox Christianity through its official and public hierarchical channels maintains a gender binary and the cisgender performance of that binary as normative and spiritually necessary" (p. 528).
When she speaks of "transvestite or andromimetic nuns" she is referring to nuns like St. Theodora of Alexandria, who was a married woman who fell into adultery, and in repentance decided to become a nun, but because she feared that he husband would find her, chose to dress as a man and go to a monastery, where her husband would never think to look. She was later falsely accused of having fathered an illegitimate child, and she did not defend herself, endured the shame, and raised the child herself. Her innocence was only discovered at her death (see her life for more). Such examples are unusual, but exceptional cases due to circumstances, and the Church commemorates her as a woman, not as a man, and certainly not as a gender fluid person of some other non-binary category. To use such examples to promote the acceptance of homosexuality or transsexualism is ridiculous. The suggestion that the services are full of homoerotic imagery is both perverse and blasphemous. The farthest thing from the minds of the hymnographers of the Church would have been anything remotely supportive of the homosexual or gender-queer agenda.

For more information, see:

'The Frankfurt School, from "In Our Time BBC Radio 4"

Postmodernism and Cultural Marxism, by Jordan B Peterson

Orthodoxy Today has more on the views of Ashley Purpura:

Ashley Purpura: Orthodox Church Needs Women Priests and Bishops

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

2018 St. Innocent Liturgical Calendar Ready for Order


You can now place your orders for the 2018 St. Innocent Liturgical Calendar. In addition to providing liturgical rubrics based on the Jordanville Calendar (Troitskij Pravoslavnij Russkij Kalendar), the calendar also includes a liturgical color chart. The cost is $32.95 Bookstore discounts are available based on the quantity ordered. The Calendar can also be ordered in PDF format. All Calendars are according to the Julian Calendar. To order, and for more information, see: http://www.stinnocentpress.com/products/liturgical_calendar.html