Degrees of Eastern Orthodoxy

William: (in reply to a pun about how to bake bread for the liturgy/mass)

I “got” your pun and found it amusing and not offensive. I spent 20 years from age 25 (as a convert from “nothing previous”) to age 45 when I decided that my own life could not measure up to what was expected (plus the Bishops were breaking up in disputes/accusations of heresy into groups headed by ONE lone bishop who is considered STERILE since two Bishops are necessary to consecrate a new bishop)… these were OLD CALENDARIST Bishops. The New Calendar Archdiocese of North America is so reformed as to be analogous to Protestants while the Old Calendarists are like the Hasidics of Greek Orthodoxy. Anyway it is curious that although they only say Liturgy and not Mass the word means WORK or DOING (ougon) for the people or masses (LAOS) HENCE laos + ourgos = liturgy (all this is from memory so I may be wrong). Anyway, in the Greek of the New Testament it is said that Jesus takes ARTOS which can ONLY MEAN leavened risen bread because a totally different word, AZYMOS, is used to denote UNLEAVENED bread (a = privative and zymos = leaven). Another interesting fact is that when a communicant receives the host in BOTH TYPES body and blood, it is STRESSED that the body must be CHEWED/BITTEN since that is the definition of EAT. The Greeks in the 1970s alleged that at some point the Catholics were instructed NOT TO BITE the wafer but let it dissolve since it would be disrespectful to bite the body. Anyway, there are further minor differences between the Greek practice and the Russian practice. The
Greeks use ONE huge loaf while the Russians use five loaves. By the way I knew one Russian Priest who during World War II went to great trouble to obtain a slice of something like Wonder Bread so that a liturgy could be performed for the troops. Also, the Orthodox CANNOT celebrate a liturgy UNLESS they have a special cloth called an ANTIMENSA which means “in place of a table” which must have sewn in its hem a fragment of a MARTYR saint who died a violent death defending his faith since the church is built/founded upon the blood of the martyrs. Many more curious things may be observed about the nature of the Orthodox Eucharist in comparison to Latin/Roman Catholic Practice. The Orthodox NEVER have a service of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament where a consecrated wafer is placed in a Monstrance (spelling) and viewed/adored. I shall post this for now and perhaps add more comments later.

I have heard some Protestant groups criticize Catholics and Orthodox because they “recrucify Jesus over and over” in their daily concentration of the mass Eucharist rather than the Protestant concentration on the sermon and scripture readings, but from the mystifcal Orthodox and RC perspective…. each celebration is a mystical participation outside of the temporal into the one eternal moment where the crucifixion and resurrection took place once and for all. And of course we know of denomination who liken wearing the cross to wearing an electric chair had it happened that Christ had died by electrocution. … I am just kind of brainstorming here and free associating, . when Prophet Elijah is fed in the wilderness by ravens which are scavenger birds then in Mosaic law food touched by a scavanger is unclean, but this is an image of the eucharist, whereby the sinful nature of the celebrant priest does not defile the eucharist… the spiritual estate of the celebrant has no negative effect upon eucharist BUT the spiritual estate of the communicant/recipient has EVERY effect since Paul says there are those who are careless and unprepared and eat and drink to their own condemnation….

I find it sad that you say you left Orthodox Christianity b/c you could not “measure up.” No one “measures up.” I think the whole attitude of Old Calendarism — that the canons are these rigid laws that one must live up to with per…fectionist rigor — is to blame for this sad fact. This whole attitude of legalism, moralism and “barren ethicology” (Metr. VLACHOS) is just plain wrong. The Gospel gets lost in that fog. (Google Archbp. Lev Puhalo on “Morality as heresy.”) I hope I am not offending any Old Calendarists but I think that these “True Orthodox” splinter groups would have stoned the woman taken in adultery (John 8) since the “canons” in force at that time say that that is what should have been done. The canons were not intended to be another Torah (and your comparison with the Hasidim is apt), another burden laid on the people of God, but a set of standards and guidelines for the shepherds leading their flocks. Christians weren’t intended to be just so much “canon-fodder.” Even the O. C.-ists don’t follow all of the canons, for example the ones related to slavery, orthe one about not going to Jewish doctors or not buying a suit from a Jewish tailor! I am surprised that you characterize the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of N.A. as protestantizing. I think there are a few good Orthodox parishes that steer a salutary, middle-way of respecting ancient traditions while rejecting narrow legalism and moralism. What they keep in mind is the therapeutic character of the Church. (I have found such a parish in the Antiochian Archdiocese.) The Old Calendar splinter groups you mention will go the way of the Novationists and Donatists (w/whom they share a great deal) b/c no one — not only you — can live up to their rigor and, more importantly, b/c that basic attitude of puritanism is unchristian. There’s always been this tension in the Church: is it an assembly of saints or a hospital for sinners? I have no choice but to favor the latter which my faith leads me to believe is the way of Christ the “physician of our souls and bodies.”

@David, WOW! 1923 is seared into my brain as the calendar change. I am thinking of the “Old Believers” in Russia who resisted the reforms of THAT time and who still exist today. There were the byez-papofsi (without-priests) and the papovsi (with priests). I was actually able to meet an elderly papofsi couple who had a chicken farm in Connecticut. Their daughter had married a man who was a member of ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) The Papofsi Old Believer couple originally came from Australia. They had a bishop there who would MAIL Communion (Eucharist) to them. As for the byez-papovsi (sorry for my transliteration) once their last bishop died they could no longer ordain priests. It is a little known fact that there are two things which a baptized layperson can do in Orthodoxy but which allowed the Byez-Papovsi to continue: baptism, marriage. A layperson is supposed to seek out a priest if possible to baptize someone or to solemnize a marriage, but if no priest is available (in times of persecution) then the laity can perform these functions. I was in Holy Trinity Cathedral at Jordanville when Metropolitan Philaret was alive and head of ROCOR. I was not a novice but rather a “trudnick” or worker in the book bindery. The rasofor monk who lived down the hall from me, Fr. Igor, became Fr. Ilarion who is now the current Metropolitan. I must say that Hilarion and Justin were among the highest caliber Orthodox that I knew personally over the years. Before my discovery of ROCOR I had spent a year in a New Calendar Greek church which was my first Orthodox experience ever (so I thought every place was like that) but I must say in retrospect that the clergy seemed spiritually impoverished.) I experienced some disappoints and spent a while at a Metropolia Russian Church which seems a little higher in caliber (they actually had a 15 minute vespers on Saturday evening.) But when I experienced ROCOR it blew me away… it was head and shoulders above anything I had ever seen. And when I went with the Greeks in Brookline, I found that to be at a someone higher level than the Russians (but Russian ROCOR was good enough…) By the way it was the Metropolia Russian priest who told me how during WWII he got hold of a slice of something like Wonder Bread (or Sunbeam or Arnolds) in order to have a Liturgy (Mass). This post is getting long, but I will add that in the lives of the saints, there was one priest who was about to be excuted in ancient times, and had no antimensa cloth, but he celebrated the liturgy on his own chest, since he was a martyr and the antimensa cloth has the relics of a martyr sewn in the hem of the cloth.

What I heard so often among the Greeks especially (not so much the Russians) is “economia” vs. “akrivia (exactness): according to the EXACTNESS of the Orthodox Tradition one should do THIS but through ECONOMY one may instead do that. So it was not like they all wanted to stone the adultress. I could go into details about what EXACTNESS (akrivia) dictates and what economia tolerates. In fact, I have found an analogous disctinction in the Roman Catholic 900 pg catechism.


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