Friday, May 12, 2006

"We Pray Straight Ahead"

An outstanding post by Eric Jobe on why would-be Orthodox converts -- in this case, Lutherans -- are attracted to the Western Rite:
Bishop Mark was asking these converts why they like the Western Rite. They responded, "Your Grace, the Byzantines pray in circles. We pray straight ahead."
Eric means no offense; the metaphor is merely a descriptive he eloquently develops:
Anyone familiar with the Eastern liturgies knows the seemingly endless cycle of hymns and litanies...Anyone familiar with the Western liturgies knows the terseness of the Roman rhetoric, the elegant simplicity of the prayers, and the relatively short length of the services...

Yet both pray. It may be in different rhetorical styles, languages, and vestments, but it is still prayer that is acceptable to our God through Jesus Christ. It is the same Body and Blood that sits on the alter, the same presence of Christ that fills every heart.

So, pray in circles or pray straight ahead, but eventually, by the grace of God, we will all end up at the same destination.
This is such a moving description of Orthodoxy's two (IMHO) complementary rites, I wish I'd written it.

BTW, Eric, you're welcome for putting you in touch. Now you know why I always refer to my times with Father with such joy.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

New Blogs

I've updated the Blog roll to your left: the most recent addition is Logos, the blog of Subdeacon Robert Thomas Llizo of St. Michael Orthodox Church (WRV) in Whittier, CA. (How 'bout that Nixon?) Other recent adds include:
Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Da Vinci Nonsense

Critics of The Da Vinci Code hasten to point out the film and the book of the same name are classified as "fiction," that they make no pretense about being history. Its defenders, including the author, state the book is "based on" legitimate "history." Many years ago, an oddball acquaintance asked me to read the book upon which The Da Vinci Code is based. Two items struck your humble narrator about the "non-fiction" book -- Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln: its almost complete lack of historical basis and unrelenting, almost oppressive tedium.

In 400 pages, the book meanders over the history of the Merovingian Dynasty of Gaul. (Now there's a page-turner.) Visigoths! Alamanni! Guys with names like Chilperic and Childeric -- thrill at it all!

From my rusty memory, I recall being struck that the historical section of the book had 1-3 footnotes, all in the early, non-controversial chronology of France. Once it began speculating about the Priory of Sion, sacred bloodlines, etc., no citations were made whatsoever, and even the "logical" connections the authors attempted to forge did not compute. It baffled me how anyone found it the slightest bit convincing.

As one wends his way through literally scores of pages that are at best highly tangential, one realizes: the authors present the entire history of the Merovingian family to distract from the paucity of evidence for the book's thesis. The average reader, buried 'neath a hundredweight of pages on early medieval Gallican history, has lost all bearings and assumes this somehow proves the authors' point. (Or is at least related to the authors' point.) The relating of this minutiae, for some, will establish their "scholarly" status and justify their pronouncements later in the tome concerning the Holy Grail. At a minimum, the modern American reader, faced with such arcane subjects, will shake his head and conclude that he is not equipped to argue with their conclusion.

In other words, if you can't dazzle them with brilliance, bury them in something else.

The conservative wings of several churches have written about the book's fantasies commendably, but their predictable opposition carries less weight in the broader society than it should: after all, what else would the secularists expect of them? Particularly important are the criticisms of secular historians who regard Holy Blood, Holy Grail as "pseudohistory." One of the keys to minimizing the damage the film will do, in addition to the Church assuring the faithful of its ahistorical assertions, is to avoid giving the impression to non-church-goers at home this is a battle between Church and society; we ought to couch it in terms of truth vs. falsehood -- a war we can surely win.

The original book, and its follow-up The Messianic Legacy, got more mileage from this ridiculous fairy tale than deserved -- and that 20 years ago. It is sad to see the book become a bestseller, worse to see it become a major film. Worse yet to see it continue to lead astray the ever-secularizing modern Western faithful.

Greek Orthodox Church Condemns the Da Vinci Code

The Greek Orthodox Church is making the right noises on the spurious slander film, The Da Vinci Code. is reporting:

The semi-official Ana news agency said that a leaflet to be distributed to churchgoers at all [Greek] Orthodox churches next Sunday states "From a religious and historical point of view the content of the book is wholly false." ...The author (American Dan Brown) wants to damage faith in the church and in Christ, as perfect God and perfect man," says the leaflet. "Quite apart from the fact that the book attacks Christ, it also attacks the church, directly accusing it of lying and deceiving the faithful." The Orthodox [C]hurch, to which 97 percent of Greeks belong, "does not call on people either to see or not to see the film, or to read or not to read the book...but it is sure that those who do will see the lies and reject its riduculous content."

So, do you think this means no Goarch priest will bless the home of Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks (the film's star) after Theophany this year? (Chuckling at my own sarcasm.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Would They Make This Elizabethan Settlement?

From a poem attributed to Queen Elizabeth I about the Eucharist. Purportedly, Her Majesty said this in response to a Calvinist inquirer:
His was the Word that spake it;
He took the bread, and brake it;
And what that Word did make it,
I do believe and take it.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Episcopal-less Church

Some 36 ballots later, and Tennessee still doesn't have a successor to its retiring bishop.