Arimathea
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Religion
The human animal is the worshipping animal. Toward the divine, we have a need to pray, to sacrifice, to offer up, and to praise. From the spirit dances of primitive animism to the rational contemplation of philosophical paganism, from the ethical code of the rabbis to the theological vision of the scholastics, from the sprinkled blood (the origin of blessing) of temple cults to helping the poor in simple Christian charity, men need to relate the immanent and the transcendent -- they see their particular lives in time and space transfigured and transfused with meaning unbounded by human things. Religion is this aspect of human life where the everyday and worldly intersects with the ultimate and divine. Is this an accident of human evolution, or is it a racial neurosis brought upon us as conscious beings who live in the shadow of our own death? Is it a reflection of the divine order, where creatures naturally orient themselves toward their source? Has God revealed himself to us, as the Christians claim? In this realm, I shall try to delve into such questions as an Orthodox Christian who ever pesters God with "Why?"
Saturday, January 23, A.D. 2010
March Recap and Rome’s Return

The March for Life went well. I checked Weather.com in the morning before I walked to the march, and it listed an 80% chance of rain or snow for every hour except in the early afternoon, where it had a 100% chance of precipitation. So, I expected a dreary day. However, the day was dry, much warmer than the forecast predicted, and the sun even came out later in the afternoon. Providence at work, one might say.

I spent the morning and rally with the Orthodox group, and then I found my brother and his students for the march proper. Unfortunately, I was not able to escort my brother and his boys around the Capitol before the march this year because his school insisted on their attending the youth mass and rally beforehand. I am sure that the young men found their time well spent, regardless.

I have been pretty impressed with his boys over the last two marches. Granted, they are West Side Roman Catholic boys from Cincinnati from predominantly Bavarian and Rhinelander backgrounds. I mean, what else would you expect? Still, in this day and age, I found them remarkably well behaved. Furthermore, the high school’s new priest came along this year, and he exemplifies well the change in Roman clergy that has occurred in the last two decades. This fellow is a young man, fresh out of the seminary, who wears a cassock, participates in the Latin mass community, and, according to my father, defends the Roman tradition. My papist sources tell me that this is the new standard. The Protestantized, hippy neurosis of the sixties generation has pased, and the men who are becoming priests now in the Roman Church in America are traditional papists.

However, I do not think that there has been the same sort of metanoia among the Roman laity. In a recent survey of Orthodox laity in the Greek Archdiocese and in the O.C.A. (to which I shall dedicate a later post), Alexei Krindatch explores possible generational gaps among Orthodox priests and laymen. He uses research on the American Roman Catholic community as precedent.

We paid particular attention to the differences in opinions and attitudes of the various generations of American Orthodox faithful. The major question was “Are there any strong and consistent lines of separation dividing generations of “grandparents” (those 65 years and older), “parents” (45-64 years old) and “children” (younger than 45)?” To a large extent, this crucial question was inspired by the numerous recent studies of the US Roman Catholics. It has become commonplace to acknowledge the gap and clear distinctions between pre-Vatican II Catholics (those born in 1940 or earlier), Vatican II Catholics (born 1940-1961) and post Vatican II Catholics (born after 1961). Most recent Catholic studies also divide the last category (post Vatican II Catholics) in two separate groups: generation “X” (born 1961-1980) and generation “Y” (born 1980 and later) (D’Antonio 2007, Hayes 2007). These generations of US Roman Catholics are clearly different in many important ways.

Further, in his influential book “Evolving Visions of Priesthood,” Dean Hoge pointed to a fact that the younger (post Vatican II generation) Roman Catholic priests are in many ways more conservative than the clergy who belong to Vatican II generation and that the attitudes of the younger Catholic priests resemble more those of their “grandparents” – the priests from pre-Vatican II Council generation. However, there is no such trend among US Roman Catholic laity. Hoge arrived to a conclusion that “young laity and young priests are moving in different directions” and that “in the future, the gap can be expected to widen” (Hoge 2003: 133).

Is this pattern true for American Orthodox Christianity? The general answer to this question is “No.” First, in our earlier study of American Orthodox clergy (Krindatch 2006), we found that the generational divides among American Orthodox clergy are much less pronounced and cover fewer subjects and areas of Church life than this is the case among US Roman Catholic clergy. Second, the data from the current study lead us to the same conclusion: the generational differences among American Orthodox laity occurred only on certain topics and issues.

Even though the differences are “much less pronounced,” both the Orthodox clergy and laity in those two jurisdictions (which happen to be arguably the most “modernist” jurisdictions in the Orthodox world) are becoming more traditional. The report’s summary states:

Finally and most importantly, the differences between “grandparents,” “parents” and “children” are not consistent. In some cases, the “children” seem to be more conservative in their attitudes and approaches than their “parents” and “grandparents,” while in other cases the pattern is opposite.

However, after having read the report, I do not see where the pattern is opposite except that younger Orthodox people tend to have more friends who are not Orthodox, which is not at all surprising. When the survey asked how does one categorize his approach to the Church’s teachings, the post-boomer lay respondents were significantly less “liberal” (“I am willing to initiate and promote new developments in Church”) and “moderate” (“I accept new developments and changes in Church depending on local circumstances”) and more “traditional” (“Any changes in the Church should be evolutionary”) and “conservative” (“Orthodox Church should avoid changes in its life and theology”) than boomers—3% versus 5% liberal, 23% versus 29% moderate, 45% versus 28% traditional, and 29% versus 27% conservative. Of course, what such change means in the Orthodox context, even for the “radicals,” is not what change means in the Western confessions. For example, even among the Orthodox “Leftists” in the most modernist Orthodox jurisdictions in the world, only 20% favor the ordination of women to the priesthood. So, change for these folks is not quite the same as change for the heterodox.

Getting back to the Latins, I wonder if the attitudes of the Roman Catholic laity in America will begin to follow the change in the clergy over time. Consider how poorly catechized American Roman Catholics have been for the last several decades. They do not know their faith, and they have largely absorbed their values from the contemporary godless culture. With an invigorated priesthood, the Latin church will be able to educate the masses at masses. Eventually, the younger priests will take over Roman educational establishments, which have basically become Leftist indoctrination camps with social justice lip service to the gospel. I have noticed that even among the Jesuits, the younger priests are traditional, pious men. The long suffering Latins may actually see an end to their current time of troubles. I hope so.

Before the march, I was talking with one of my march buddies about my generous feelings toward Rome. I admitted my agnosticism concerning whether I think Rome is part of the Church, albeit as a sickened member with many problems. A priest (and a R.O.C.O.R. priest, at that) overheard me, and he asked me to repeat what I had just said. “Oh no,” I thought, “I am going to be reprimanded by a priest for entertaining heretical ecclesiological thoughts.” Instead, the priest said that he found it interesting that the East never established an Orthodox episcopate for Rome. Moreover, he said that the Church has not made clear the ecclesiological standing of Rome after the schism. Regardless, the Latins have many issues, and outright heresy (rather than significant theological problems, such as the West’s filioque theology) has spread throughout the Roman communion for the last several decades. Yet, I stated that such might be coming to an end, and I wondered if the contemporary Latin spasm of heresy might parallel the East’s experience during the iconoclast controversy. The chaos of iconoclasm lasted for several generations. Nonetheless, the Church prevailed as the Orthodox continued to hold fast to the faith while their political and religious leaders and countrymen often went astray. After a long struggle, order returned. Might not the Roman Catholic tribulation of the last century be the same sort of disorder? Indeed, it looks like the fever is passing. Even the pope has stopped kissing Korans . . .

Posted by Joseph on Saturday, January 23, Anno Domini 2010
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Tuesday, January 19, A.D. 2010
Theophany, A.D. 2010

I wish everyone on the old calendar a blessed Theophany.

Here is RussiaToday‘s segment on the feast in Siberia:

There is much work to do in post-Soviet Russia, but much hope, as well.

I found a blurb today in the Toronto Sun about the Russian Orthodox version of the “polar bear plunge” on Theophany, “Russians plunge into chilling holy water.” The short story features eight pictures of those crazy Russkies, who, we have just learnt, have finally turned around their fourteen year long population decline. Here is another article on Ethiopian Review“Russian Orthodox take icy plunges to celebrate Epiphany.” From their dress, you would think that they were American Roman Catholics at mass in the summertime.

The Washington Post‘s Eye on the World photography site also features a picture of Serbs’ jumping in water to retrieve the cross. You may wish to see my post last year on Theophany, which includes a video of the Greek American boys’ famous contest in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

In other news, the Russian Church will soon get back the lovely Novodevichy Convent and the people of Massachusetts will get back one of their senatorial seats.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, January 19, Anno Domini 2010
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