Monday, February 20, 2006

Praise the Charmolypi!

Kh. Frederica Mathewes-Green promotes The Most Unique Orthodoxy Ever in an interview at National Review. Hawking her new book on the Great Canon of St. Andrew -- which she says is "almost like a jazz riff"(!) -- she takes the usual swipes at the usual suspects. The Eastern view of sin and redemption is "more extreme," deeper, more poetic than the West, not to mention "piercingly beautiful." Silly Westerners obsess with juridical "legal fiction" salvation, but the East knows the nailprints are Christ's "battle scars."

The East does not believe the way da Vest does about sin, either. "Instead, St. Andrew speaks of sin as something that arises from deep inside, from a darkened and confused mind." My, that is different than the West.

On the other hand, she calls the story of St. Mary of Egypt "a corker," which few Westerners would do.

When asked if this book on the Great Canon of St. Andrew -- a Byzantine Orthodox Lenten practice read a handful of times a year -- isn't perhaps niche writing, FMG says once upon a time "this kind of writing made converts ."

She concludes, "the goal of all spiritual disciplines are to cultivate charmolypi." Repeat charmolypi a few dozen more times, and you'll be beating off the converts with an altar fan.

Read Kathryn Lopez's questions on their own, in succession, and see if you don't share my impression that K-Lo virtually begged for this interview to be over. (E.g., "What is 'the Great Canon of St. Andrew' and what's so great about it?"; "What got you interested enough to write this book?"; and "Can you 'read' a book like this?")

I nodded off reading this vapid interview.

When will the Orthodox Church be represented by a sensible, pro-Western spokesperson who does not feel compelled to regularly spout off obscure foreign words as part of his conversion efforts? Answer: When Fr. Matthew Thurman gets his act in gear.


Blogger Eric John said...

My Lutheran parents have enjoyed reading FMG's books. I liked her first two. I'll have to check out the new one.

My last request before death will be for someone of amazing linguistic talent (Eric Jobe, you up for it?) to translate forgotten Orthodox classics like Migne's Patrologia Latina and St. Symeon of Thessolonika's books into English. We have a lot of books on Orthodoxy in English, but numbers can be deceiving. Patristic content is often lacking, as are books explaining historical contexts of Church history. It's a bit ridiculous that someone can pose as an expert or spokesperson for Orthodoxy and not be well-versed in the whole history of the Orthodox Church, which extends far, far beyond the Byzantine-Russian sphere.

It also bugs me that there are priests and seminary graduates today who are not aware of the historical Orthodoxy of the West. Just because the Roman Catholics and the Oriental Orthodox have parted ways with us doesn't mean that they never were Orthodox, doesnt' mean that their Orthodox history is invalidated.

There is so much we can learn from a broader study of Church history, it's a shame that we often stay in the Greco-Slavic ghetto. I realize that there's a lot to be uncovered there as well, but let's not forget about the wider Orthodox heritage.

And what in the world are Charmolypi? She's as bad as Fr. Alexander Schmemann or Fr. John Meyendorff, dropping in a multitude of untranslated words into everyday speech.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Fr. Matthew said...

Gulp! Why am I getting tapped for such an august responsibility? What on earth are you expecting me to produce?

BTW--as an interesting aside. If you look carefully on FMG's web site (in the photos section), you will discover that the MG's are friends with the Waggeners (of your recently posted Bp. Waggener fame). See:

So FMG should be credited with having WR friends!

7:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time for a reality check all:

Mamma Fred is dead right and is contemporaneously and historically representiative of Orthodox thought vis a vis the Latin Frankish theology edifice.

See Dr. David Bradshaw's Aristotle East and West (Oxford 2005).

8:07 PM  
Blogger Eric John said...

FMG may represent Eastern Orthodox thought of a certain type, but she doesn't speak for Orthodoxy as a whole, and certainly not for historical Western Orthodox thought. And there is such a thing. St. Isidore of Seville and the Venerable Bede were not Eastern in their outlook, even though they had contacts with the East. (St. Isidore was for a time in Constantinople and, as far as I know--I may be off on dates--the Venerable Bede may have been a contemporary of St. Theodore of Tarsus, who was a Greek Archbishop of Canterbury.) There's also Pope St. Sergius I to consider. He was a Syrian from the East, but definitely looked at the Trullo Council from a Western Orthodox perspective.

The problem for you is that there is really no one body of Orthodox Christian thought. Of course, there are general parameters, but Orthodoxy has never been just Eastern. If you were to say that, after the Schism, it was, I would counter and say that the Saints of the Orthodox West now in Heaven did not all switch to a Byzantine or Eastern perspective, but maintained their own Western Orthodoxy (albeit, their vision of the Divine reality is now unclouded). It is, therefore, meet and right that these great saints of the Orthodox West be immitated by their descendants in deed, word, and thought, for they set the standard for us to follow.

Orthodoxy is so broad and deep, spanning all time (as the faith which established the universe) and all space (as the faith which is preached to the ends of the earth). It will not fit into any box.


In response to Death Bredon's blog post on the roots of the Schism, I think some of Bradshaw's conclusions are sound. There are Western errors in matters other than theology. I find a lot of post-schism Roman Catholic spirituality to be disturbing. I don't see anything weird in pre-schism spirituality. Perhaps you have some examples to share?

I don't think re-union of the Churches will necessitate going over Western practice with a fine-toothed comb. First of all, I don't favor mass re-integration. (How would we keep up?) In the case of whole parishes coming into the Orthodox Church, there are some things which need to be addressed. I think proper catechesis does that.

I don't believe that Blessed Augustine is the cause of a new theology in the West. He is an Orthodox Catholic Church Father, but none of them are infalliable. Rather, the Fathers speak in concert. If St. Augustine has written something not corrorborrated in the other Fathers, that writing needs to be studied in further depth to determine if it is accurate. Blessed Augustine himself did not believe he was writing the end-all in theology. He was always ready to admit an error.

Theology is not what guides the Church. Rather, the Holy Spirit is her guide. For 1,000 years, the Eastern and Western Churches were united. The Western Church was guided by the grace of the Holy Spirit which is certainly more powerful than any kind of theological infection or misinterpretation.

Error and misunderstanding were not only a Western disease. The East has never really bothered to delve into how Papal Claims were understood by the Roman Patriarchs. Also, there were many instances in which the East twisted the arm of the West (Arianism, Trullo Council, Monotheletism, Iconoclasm, etc.) and all these affected how the Popes and Western Orthodox saw themselves vis a vis the East. (Were they so wrong?) If a reunion were to occur, both sides would have to re-examine themselves and admit that "mistakes were made."

The Church is the work of the Holy Spirit, Who covers all the mistakes of men. The Church is a mystery, an article of belief. She cannot be proven or disected. In the end you have to say, St. Augustine (who made some theological errors, but is certainly not a heretic nor the father of heresies) is in the Church, St. Isidore of Seville (who added the Filioque clause to the Creed) is in the Church, the Blessed Emperor Charlemagne (where to start with his errors?--though he was historically locally venerated as a saint) is in the Church, and even Pope Nicholas I (the anti-Photion) is in the Church, though he was somewhat of a thorn in St. Photios' side. None of these people have ever been condemned for heresy or schism. They all died in communion with the Holy Orthodox Church. (On a side note, so did Theodore of Mopsuestia, but he was condemned by a council long after his death, over the protests of the Roman Pope whou thought it a bit rash to condemn someone who had died as an Orthodox Christian.)

11:31 PM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Fr. Matthew, why you? What makes you think it was ME who selected you? Perhaps a Higher Power made the selection by my hand? :)

As for Frederica, I'm sure she's decent company, as are many sincere, Baby Boomer Byzantine converts. But I still think her approach is misguided and not representative of the fulness of Orthodoxy. Perhaps mine isn't either, but the Baptodox Convert World doesn't genuflect at my every word.

FYI, if you read her books, Frederica also brags about converting those WR friends to the Byzantine Rite. Shudder, shudder, shudder.

5:10 AM  
Blogger Eric John said...

"The Baptodox Convert World doesn't genuflect at my every word."

Some day, Ben. Some day.

"Frederica also brags about converting those WR friends to the Byzantine Rite."

Someone needs a lecture on liturgical diversity in Orthodox history. But she might not think that was a good thing. It's sad.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Flacius said...

Praise the Charmolypi - LOL!
Reminds me of all those Hare Krishna converts in the 70s...
Hey, maybe they're even the same people now converting to Orthodoxy!!

It's getting to the stage where, whenever I feel like a good laugh, I reach for the latest convert Orthodox "best-seller" - Franky, Clark, Frederica, all theological accidents waiting to happen. The Orthodox bishops need a nihil obstat imprimatur system, or something.
This can't be good for Orthodoxy, right? I mean, a church that only seems to attract fruit-loops, sorry, eccentrics to convert must be a bit worried, eh? Nice folks these converts I'm sure but, you know, one egg short of a dozen...

I just feel sorry for all the cradle-Orthodox having to put up with them. Is it true +Laurus of the ROCOR joined with Moscow just to shake off the mad converts driving him crazy?

Western Rite Orthodoxy I can understand as a last resort, but Western Eastern Orthodoxy just puts me in mind of folk who'd rather eat in a bad ethnic restaurant than enjoy a good homecooked meal.

Oh yeah, Migne's Patrologia Latina an Orthodox classic? I'm sure Jacques-Paul himself would dispute that. Still, at least it had a nihil obstat and imprimatur.


7:36 AM  

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