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Coronavirus meets religion #4

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

[ by Charles Cameron — this one’s fine, with popes, patriarchs, confessions, hindutva and all — but i’ll have something special for you in #5 ]
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I just ran across an Italian site, DIRESOM, that monitors matters of the virus, religion and law, and am going to drop in some of the more potent notices here.

Hindutva:

Around mid-February 2020, Chakrapani Maharaj, who is the President of the Indian fundamentalist party “All India Hindu Mahasabha”, asserted that “corona is not a virus, but an angry avatar [divine embodiment] who came into the world to punish those who eat meat and to protect poor people”

The thuing is, religion allied to nationalism all too easily turns into bigotry, persecution, torture, massacres, whatever..

**

Orthodoxy:

ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH ANNOUNCES HALT OF ALL ORTHODOX CHURCH SERVICES GLOBALLY DUE TO CORONAVIRUS
18 MARCH 2020

Brother Hierarchs and beloved children in the Lord,

From the Phanar, from the heart of the Queen of Cities, from the City of the Great Church and of Haghia Sophia, we are communicating with each and every one of you – women, men, and children – because of the unprecedented conditions and tribulation that we are facing as a human race as a result of the global threat posed by the pandemic of the new coronavirus, called Covid-19.

The voice of the Church, of the Mother Church, cannot be silent in such times. Our words, then, take the form we have learned through the ages: through the liturgy and through instruction, with encouragement and consolation.

Church of England:

Same thing in the UK..

As the challenge of the coronavirus grips the world, and as the Government asks every individual and every organisation to rethink its life, we are now asking the Church of England in all its parishes, chaplaincies and ministries to serve all people in a new way. Public worship will have to stop for a season. Our usual pattern of Sunday services and other mid-week gatherings must be put on hold. But this does not mean that the Church of England has shut up shop

**

Catholicism:

The issue of the sacrament of confession — traditionally a face-to-face practice (albeit often conducted through a grille or veil) — may, a Vatican authority on canon law argues, legitimately be conducted via telephone, in sufficiently urgent, exigent circumstances.

  • Note on the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the current pandemic situation, by the Vatican’s Grand Penitentiary, Cardinal Piacenza [Italian]
  • .

    **

    Pope Francis, pray for us

    A religious — Russian, Orthodox, choral, submarine, nuclear — oddity rebuked

    Friday, March 1st, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — this post models the transition from nuclear threat to celestial peace — a transition our poor minds surely, sorely need ]
    .

    I’m very fond of sacred choral music, and the Orthodox sacred choral music of Russia can be beautiful indeed. Some of that beauty can be heard in this performance in the Cathedral of St. Isaac in St Petersburg, which drew a standing ovation and sustained applause just a week ago:

    The Eparchy, or ecclesiastical authority, however, “eventually” expressed displeasure with the event. One might wonder why?

    Radio Free Europe’s report provides the answer:

    The song’s first verse describes a nuclear submarine with “a dozen little bombs of 100 megatons each” crossing the Atlantic.

    “I call to the targeting officer,” the lyric goes, “‘Take aim, Petrov, at Washington!'”

    **

    While we can still draw breath, you at least deserve a taste of Russian chant of the kind targeted at the heart of God:

    Lt Christopher Hasson and religion, also Breivik, Rudolph

    Friday, February 22nd, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — calling Hasson a “domestic terrorist” is a good first step, noting that he’s fulfilling Breivik’s hope that his manifesto will train others is a second, and checking out his religious ideas would be a third ]
    .

    **

    I’ve seen a fair amount of coverage of Lt. Hasson as a domestic terrorist, focusing on his weaponry, his target database, and his dream of killing “almost every last person on the earth” — but nothing taking explicit note of his views on religion.

    The New York Times reported him as saying:

    Please send me your violence that I may unleash it onto their heads. Guide my hate to make a lasting impression on this world. So be it.

    That phrasing struck me as strange, being the only part of his writings addressed to a second party. In context, however, it seems likelynto be a form of prayer — it is immediately preceded by one of the very few religious references in the document:

    Gun rights people will never rise, need religious to stand up.

    Coming immediately after that, it strikes me that “Please send me your violence .. Guide my hate ..” certainly could and perhaps should be read as prayers. Their address to a second party seems like a tell to me.

    **

    The only other religious reference I saw in Hasson’s writings as the court provided them followed immediately on the question, “Who and how to provoke???” And reads:

    New idea this weekend, R/E orthodox as a way to influence?

    I take that to be a reference to Russian / Eastern Orthodoxy. Other meanings for “R/E” I’ve seen include “Real Estate”, “Retained Earnings” and “Revolutionary/Evolutionary” — none of which make any sense in the context followed by “orthodox”.

    Further, Hasson thought of Russia as a resistant to the values he despised, writing:

    Looking to Russia with hopeful eyes or any land that despises the west’s liberalism. Exclusive of course the muslim scum. Who rightfully despise the west’s liberal degeneracy….

    It seems to me he likely shares Anders Breivik’s general “cultural Christianity” if not Christianity itself — and given the well-documented closeness of Putin and Patriarch Kirill, and their general joint approach melding religious and patriotic ideation, and indeed Church and State together, it would make sense that Hasson “Looking to Russia with hopeful eyes” would include his viewing Orthodoxy, at least in its Russian form, as a bulwark against “the west’s liberal degeneracy”.

    **

    I checked with Anders Breivik’s Manifesto, which Hasson studied with care, following many of Breivik’s instructions, and didn’t find any suggestion that Orthodoxy was Breivik’s preferred form of Christianity for the purposes of resisting degeneracy. In fact his instructions for citizens of his revised western culture include the section title, “Convert to Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant)”, with the further explanation:

    Every individual is to accept baptism, the ritual act by which one is admitted to membership of the Christian Church, as a member of the particular Church in which the baptism is administered.

    Orthodoxy is named in that section title before Catholicism and Protestantism, but I don’t think that proves much of anything. In another section, describing the origin of the St George cross as a Templar emblem, Breivik writes:

    Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Eastern Catholic Churches.

    — a pretty comprehensive list of “high” churches – but not one that prioritizes one over the others.

    I’d also note that Hasson briefly references with approval the writings of Eric Rudolph, the anti-abortion activist and Olympic Park bomber, who described his faith thus:

    I was born a Catholic, and with forgiveness I hope to die one.

    **

    All in all, there’s not much in the court papers of a religious nature, but the one real hint we have seems to point to Putin and the Patriarch as powerful allies in his white supremacist fight.

    Forget religion, it’s all politics!

    Sunday, December 16th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — Ukraine-Russia tensions reach Greece’s holy Mount Athos ]
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    Holy Athos

    **

    Forget religion, it’s all politics!

    Thee title of the Guardian piece, which came to me via my admired scholar friend Michael Robinson, is Ukraine-Russia tensions reach Greece’s holy Mount Athos. Michael pointed it my way because “holy Mount Athos” — not because “Ukraine-Russia tensions”.

    Nevertheless, forget religion, it’s all politics! (a popular refrain in our secular-dominant world)..

    “Ukraine is an independent country and deserves its own church,” Makarios told the visiting Belarusians, who nodded dubiously. His view is not shared by all: a Ukrainian monk based at Makarios’s cell, Father Agafon, had a different opinion, calling those Ukrainians in favour of an independent church “splitters and heretics” and saying the Ukrainian church should remain under the control of Moscow.

    and:

    Although most of the monks on Athos are Greek, for many Russians, as well as Ukrainians and Belarusians, a pilgrimage to Mount Athos has become almost like an Orthodox version of the Islamic hajj, seen as a spiritual must for any true believer. Oligarchs and government elites particularly like the peninsula, with its difficult-to-obtain permits and air of a VIP club. In the weeks prior to the Guardian’s visit, Makarios said he had hosted a Belarusian army general, a number of Ukrainian MPs and several rich Russians at his austere cell.

    Makarios’ austere breakfast, btw, is coffee and nuts — for the visiting generals, MPS and rich folk, too..

    **

    Forget religion, it’s all violence and strategy!

    With a meeting in Kiev on Saturday set to formally proclaim the church’s independence, some are predicting violence if Kiev tries to seize church property from the Moscow patriarchy.

    Subtitle of the piece:

    Orthodox church’s decision to make Ukrainian branch independent of Russia causes schism and predictions of violence

    and:

    M:alofeev blamed the Americans for the turmoil, claiming that “Pyatt is trying to stir up the same things he did in Ukraine” in Greece. He also claimed Bartholomew’s entourage was “infiltrated with CIA agents” and said the decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian church could lead to violence in Ukraine and Athos to split with the ecumenical patriarch.

    **

    Forget religion, it’s all money!

    One Russian who has been particularly active on Athos is Konstantin Malofeev, a businessman known as the “Orthodox oligarch”, who is currently on EU and US sanctions lists for his alleged role in funding the separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

    and:

    He insisted that most of Athos was united in its loyalty to the ecumenical patriarch, but conceded that the feeling was not unanimous. “There are some monks who just love Russian money,” he said with a sigh.

    **

    Forget religion, it’s quintessentially religion..

    For centuries, Orthodox men have come to Mount Athos, a closed peninsula in northern Greece, to sequester themselves away from the everyday concerns of the outside world. The only entrance is by boat, and women are strictly forbidden to set foot on the territory. Male pilgrims, after receiving a special permit, can visit to confess and seek counsel from the 2,000 monks at the 20 monasteries and smaller “cells” dotted along the hilly shoreline. It is one of the holiest sites of Orthodoxy, the eastern form of Christianity that split with Catholicism in the 11th century.

    Monks enter Athos “to sequester themselves away from the everyday concerns of the outside world,” okay?

    Athos runs on Byzantine time, an archaic system in which the clocks are reset each day at sunset, and it uses the Julian calendar, rendering Athos 13 days behind the rest of the western world. At sunset the monasteries shut their gates and a stillness settles on the peninsula until the bells ring for morning liturgy.

    “People come here to try to be saints, and leave the difficulties of the world behind,” said Father Porfirius, a 27-year-old Greek monk. “The hardest part is to kill your will. We try to destroy it, to get to the level of obedience of Jesus Christ.”

    Patriarch vs Patriarch (with Putin Plus):

    All is not well in Orthodoxy currently, with a split linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine causing a schism and dark talk of violence among the various Orthodox churches. Bartholomew of Constantinople, known as the ecumenical patriarch and the “first among equals” of the Orthodox patriarchs, agreed in October to give autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox church, essentially making it an independent church. Patriarch Kirill of the Russian church, which regards Ukraine as its domain, responded furiously and announced a split from the ecumenical patriarch.

    and:

    Kirill has banned Russians from taking holy communion in the churches of Athos, calling any priests who bless the ecumenical patriarch schismatics, leading to a dilemma for those Russians who want to visit.

    Schism is about as bad as it gets within Christianity. The Pope and the Patriarch are currently trying, with some little success, to heal a schism between Catholics and Orthodox which began as a dispute over a clause in the major credal statement — the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed — which broke the two major branches of the Church, east and west, apart in 1054. That’s more than a millennium of strife between brothers whose savior prayed at the end of his life [John 17.22-23]:

    And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

    **

    Okay, kudos to Guardian writer Shaun Walker for knowing the importance of religious reporting of issues that also have economic, strategic, political aspects!

    And let’s conclude with a link to this related Orthodox prayer page:

    :Concerning the Orthodox Prayers for the Union of All and the Prayer in St. John 17
    Excerpts from Ecumenism: A Movement for Union or a Syncretistic Heresy?
    by Bishop Angelos of Avlona

    Holy Fire, California and Jerusalem

    Monday, August 20th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — curiosity interest: high — actionable: negative ]
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    California fires, wild and holy:

    /a>

    **

    As a California resident, I keep a weather eye open on the terrible fores that have been and are ravaging the state this season. Among them, the Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest has caught my attention by its name, which piques my theological curiosity.

    Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, first name Forrest [“rr”], stands accused of fire-starting the 22,986-acre Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest.

    Clark was arrested a day after the fire began and investigators said there is evidence suggesting he was the one who started it.

    His cabin in the Holy Jim area was the only one of 14 standing after the fire burned through the community, the Orange County Register reported the day after he was taken into custody.

    After conferring with Clark’s counsel, the judge made the decision to suspend the criminal proceedings until they assess whether the defendant is mentally competent to stand trial.

    **

    In Jerusalem, meanwhile:

    Orthodox tradition holds that the Holy Fire happens annually on the day preceding Orthodox Easter, in which a blue light emanates within Jesus Christ’s tomb (usually rising from the marble slab covering the stone bed believed by some to be where Jesus’ body was placed for burial) now in the Holy Sepulchre, which eventually forms a column containing a form of fire, from which candles are lit, which are then used to light the candles of the clergy and pilgrims in attendance. The fire is also said to spontaneously light other lamps and candles around the church. Pilgrims and clergy claim that the Holy Fire does not burn them.

    By Benoit Soubeyran from Montpellier, France – Holy Fire in Jerusalem 2018-04-07, CC BY 2.0:

    **

    But still, Holy Fire? Whence the “holy” in Orange County?

    Apparently, there’s a Holy Jim Canyon Trail with a waterfall, but then, who is Holy Jim?

    And it’s here that we meet one of those anthropological curiosities whereby the concept of the sacred unites the two ends of the spectrum. From Wallace Black Elk I learned that the Lakota word wakan, generally translated sacred, means something like the beware: high voltagee warnings you can see where high tension cables would be dangerous for the unaware, but powerfully useful for lighting whole cities..

    Here’s the explanation for Holy JIm:

    Nature was profaned here by the swear words flooding from the mouth of “Cussin’ Jim” Smith or “Holy Jim” as he was renamed by tightlaced government surveyors who mapped the canyon in the early 1900s.

    Cussin’ Jim! Tightlaced Holy!

    And Forrest Clark, too, was noted for his “outbursts” in court:

    For the third time, the state of California tried to formally charge Forrest Gordon Clark with arson – Clark is suspected of setting the Holy Fire in Orange County – and for the third time, Clark’s erratic behavior caused a judge to stop the normal proceedings, ending with a suspension of the charges so Clark’s mental health and competency can be examined.

    **

    In its own way, the Holy Fire in Jim’s canyon has as much place in the spectrum of sacredness as the Holy Fire in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre does, sliding in, so to speak, by the back door..

    And mightn’t that also be an example of enantiodromia?


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