The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Orthodoxy, the Papacy and Stuff

The All Too Common blog posted this video on the website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate but done by EWTN. Here are some scatter-brained reflections:

1. It's good to see some real liturgy done on EWTN for a change, not just the sappy stuff that is Devotio Moderna in sound and motion. (I suppose they sometimes show the traditional Latin Mass, but not often enough.) By real liturgy, I mean OBJECTIVE worship meant to be worship, not just catechesis with props.

2. I thought that when the Patriarch served, everyone (bishops, priests, abbots, etc.) has to take off their insignias (the cross, panagia, etc.). Did the Pope have to do this? Probably not. Anyone who saw the video, did everyone else do this?

3. Many of the women receiving Communion are of East Asian extraction. Any explanations? For some reason I thought they were Filipinas. Am I right?

4. I could never become Orthodox because the liturgy is too pretty. I was a Byzantine Catholic monk, and we did the same liturgy as the Orthodox, but I wasn't a monk for too long, and maybe it didn't seem real enough to me. It's just like listening to Bach. Bach is almost too pretty to listen to. Most of the time, I am content with an opera by Lully; it is much more sensual and carnal. Bach seems almost angelic, and that makes me sad more often than not.

Whenever I see the Orthodox liturgy, I always think that I am seeing a glimpse of heaven. But then I realize that I am not in Heaven. We may have to live in both, to live in the eschaton, but Orthodox liturgy now seems too strange, too unearthly. I love it to death, but it can never be home. If Orthodoxy were in my blood, and not Roman Catholicism, it might be a different story....

Personally, I think that when we get to Heaven, the Liturgy before the Throne of the Lamb will be done by Coptic monks, provided that God forgives their flawed Christology. That is hardcore worship.

5. The commenter yaps too much on this video. Why whenever you go into a Western church, people have to thrust missals and prayer books in your hands to let you know "what is going on"? This is not a bad thing in itself, but sometimes I wish they would just leave me alone and let me watch. That's why I liked going to Russian churches where it was all in Old Slavonic and everyone ignored you. In the end, if it is true worship, you will never know entirely what's going on. At least, you couldn't get it from a book.


At 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the Asian women might have been Korean. I surmise that from hearing the commentator mention the Orthodox bishop of Korea that was concelebrating with the Patriarch.

I love the Byzantine (Orthodox or Catholic) liturgy myself but something keeps me from fulling embracing it....probably my having lived the faith my entire life in the context of Western or Latin Christianity. But sometimes I find myself wishing I had been born an Easterner! LOL.


At 8:52 AM, Blogger Anagnostis said...

Two great posts, Arturo (this and Tune in)


At 12:52 PM, Blogger Mr. G. Z. T. said...

If you're in the right place and the right time, the liturgy can be very earthly despite being heavenly, the sort of everyday beauty of a glint of sun off the stop sign or that one tree nobody else looks at that way. If you're ever in Chicago at 6:35am on a Thursday, I could show you a thoroughly homely liturgy that often succeeds in presenting such a view, but it could just be me.

At 10:08 AM, Blogger D. I. Dalrymple said...

A peculiar objection, Arturo.

But, hey, you're in the area, so stop by St Stephen's in Campbell for Divine Liturgy sometime. The dozens of rowdy kids in attendence always help to tune down the glory factor. I'd be glad to meet you, too.

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Is that where you go to Liturgy?

I've been there, though not during service (sorry, I tend to avoid Antiochene churches. Don't take this the wrong way but.... too many converts.)

I used to be a parishioner in the Byzantine Catholic Church in Los Gatos (5 minutes away), I used to go to Orthros at the Greek Orthodox Church in San Jose (10 minutes away), and am good friends with the ROCOR priest in Sunnyvale (this church has a lot of converts...).

In any event, I like to say that I measure the authenticity of the Orthodox church by how many grandmothers who can barely speak English are in attendance. The ROCOR church is Seaside had enough to give away....

The most bizarre church in this area is the break-off church in Felton that belongs to the Jerusalem Patriarchate. Two anecdotes:

1. I went there while visiting my family when I was a rasaphore monk, and I have to say that it was the ONLY time in church that I ever felt underdressed. I was of course wearing my riassa, exorasson (sp?), and skufos, and I entered the church at the end of Liturgy only to find that I had one of the shortest beards there! (And I hadn't shaved in two years.)

All the clerics and monks were wearing everything but the kitchen sink. Beautiful church, beautiful service, but just way too creepy.

2. They put out a CD of Byzantine chant, which our monastery had. One of our monks, who had lived and taught in Ukraine, looked at the cover of the CD and saw some of the monks attached to this church in the photo and said:

"They aren't real monks. No real Orthodox monks would have a beard and habit that clean."

Part of the reason why I try and steer clear of convert churches. Too American. Too sanitized.

At 11:34 AM, Blogger D. I. Dalrymple said...

Heh. I haven't been to the Felton parish you describe, though I've heard of them.

And, yes, St Stephen's is largely a convert parish (with a smattering of Greeks, Russians and Arabs). I might like the idea of a heavier cradle influence, too (we have close ties to Redeemer in Los Altos), but I make no apologies. I love St Stephen's, plus it's my local parish and I don't believe in shopping around.

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And, of course, AFAIK, the clergy of Felton are still lawfully excommunicated by the Patriarch of Antioch, regardless of the Protestant ecclesiologial games they and their cronies play.

At 10:34 AM, Blogger Matthew Francis said...

Thanks for this link... fascinating to watch. The ladies you mention might also be Japanese, as the Orthodox Church has a historic presence in Japan, and also in Harbin, China. So you've got a few options.

At 3:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Asian women you saw were Korean. That's what my wife tells me (she is Korean also).

At 8:09 PM, Blogger Visibilium said...

Bach is mathematical, not pretty.

At 8:26 PM, Blogger Visibilium said...

On another note, the high Russian flavor of Orthodox liturgy is the best for me since I can move around and be a part of it. Churches with pews buy into the unedifying "adoration" of medieval Romanism.


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