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BYZANTINE CHRISTIANITY. A PERSONAL INTRODUCTION. How did you end up here?. ethnically Asian in a Ukrainian Church  born non-Religious as many Chinese are grew up Presbyterian Rx 1: I am not Italian, therefore: not the ROMAN Catholic Church. daughter, servant, or Sister.

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byzantine christianity

BYZANTINE CHRISTIANITY

A PERSONAL INTRODUCTION

how did you end up here
How did you end up here?

ethnically Asian in a Ukrainian Church 

born non-Religious as many Chinese are

grew up Presbyterian

Rx 1:

I am not Italian,

therefore:

not the ROMAN

Catholic Church

daughter servant or sister
daughter, servant, or Sister
  • snarkiness notwithstanding: I am trying to make an important point
    • misconception that we are “hyphenated”, minority, sub-Church
    • an Ethnic branch Church
    • just for the Ukrainians, or Arabs or...
  • --the normal Catholic church. or if you say Catholic Church = Roman Catholic Church
  • --then there are the ethnic churches: (the Eastern Churches)
church ethnos
Church & Ethnos
  • Latin Church’s achievement was incarnating Church on a global level
  • Eastern Churche’s achievement was incarnating Church on the local/national level
  • but the danger of inculturation is ethnocentrism and the heresy of Phyletism:
  • ---it is a common heresy to fall into amongst Eastern Churches (eg the Orthodox): Phyletism:
churches universal by definition
Churches universal by Definition
  • retired Patriarch Lubomyr: we the UGCC are a Church FROM Ukraine but FOR the World
  • --so it is not just or even primarily a Church of/for Ukrainians
  • The very essence of Church is that it should preach the Gospels to ALL Nations. the Great Commission in Matthew
  • So I always give the Snarky Answer: because behind the humour there is an important point to make.
  • No such thing as an Ethnic Church
  • To be a Church - always for all
theology attraction
Theology attraction
  • Real Answer:
    • As someone grew up evangelical Prot: Byz. Church:
      • Theology
      • spirituality,
      • liturgy,
      • ecclesiology: easier
    • Most important: prayer, specifically
    • Liturgical Prayer
the weirdness factor
The Weirdness Factor
  • I liked what I read
  • about its theology
  • and ecclesiology
  • So I went to see
  • What a
  • Weird Experience
  • I’m not the only one!
1 st time in church mother fred
1st time in Church: Mother Fred
  • She was his wife, and she was standing next to him thinking about her feet. They hurt. She wondered why they had pews if you had to stand up all the time. The struggling choir was weak and singing in an unintelligible language that may have been English. The few other worshipers weren’t participating in the service in any visible way. Why did they hide the altar behind a wall? It was annoying how the priest kept popping in and out of the doors like a figure on a Swiss clock. The service dragged on following no discernible pattern, and it was interminable. Once the priest said, “Let us conclude our evening prayer to the Lord.” She checked her watch again; that was ten minutes ago, and still no end in sight.
liturgical seduction
Liturgical Seduction
  • But I was initially caught by the weirdness factor:
  • --that kept me going back
  • --big mistake
  • --after a few sessions
  • --after standing all those hours
  • --discovered, came upon, a way of “liturgical prayer”
  • --different from Protestant: lecture and learning: informational transmission
  • --different from Latin Church: wh I exp. As good in a succinct, intellectual, theological
  • --happened to be in Old Church Slavonic
  • --understood very little: mostly Lord have mercy and a few hymns
  • --did not even have a Service book the 1st few times
divine service
Divine Service
  • --but found that because of the Structure, Dynamics, and yes Length of the Divine Services
  • --I could just come and after a while find myself immersed into prayer
  • --a whole new experience: never experienced before
  • --before Church Service = learning information and just applying, implementing
  • --after in my life
  • --if real keener, took notes
  • if family was super zealous: discuss the sermon after
  • --in the Byz Divine Services:
  • --lots of theology, lots and lots!
  • --lots to think about and learn is offered via the Stichera, Tropars, Kondaks, etc Hymnody
  • (even more than in the Latin Church)
  • --in the Byz Divine Services:
  • --lots of Scripture present, recited, chanted, sung, lots and lots
  • --not studied (in an Evangelical Protestant way) by that is just seminar & discussion
  • --point is: Scripture and lots of it (even, and especially, in the Hymnody was the “study”)
byzantine liturgical prayer
Byzantine Liturgical Prayer
  • --but above and beyond that (below and undergirding everything)
  • --was spirituality, i.e. prayer
  • --not just learning about Gd (something done in the 3d person)
  • --but relating to Gd (something done in the 2d person: cf. Martin Buber: I-Thou)
  • --found God or rather found By God or rather Exp. Being found by God
  • --felt love, exhilaration, enveloped, embraced, quickened
  • --blood ran faster, etc
  • --did not have to work at it
  • --easiest prayer ever
  • --just stand there
  • --can be totally distracted, thinking about the laundry or whatever
  • --stand there and sing along
  • --then eventually suddenly, notice that I am in prayer already, & have been for don’t know how long
  • --with that I was addicted for life!
byzantine and catholic
Byzantine AND Catholic
  • Pope John Paul II
  • That the Church may breath with BOTH lungs
  • The Various Rites, their various & different theologies, different spiritualities, different Canon Law, even different Creeds
  • Help balance & complete the Church’s articulation and incarnation of God’s ineffable Mystery
  • Balance between 1 & 3 of the Triune God
  • Absolutions: indicatory - deprecatory
lex orandi lex credendi
Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi
  • not a unique experience:
  • While Revd Mother Frederica was experiencing there Dissonance with the Byz. Rite Services
  • Her husband had this experience:
  • He was an Episcopal priest, but he was standing in an Orthodox church on this Saturday night and thinking about Truth. At the altar a gold-robed priest strode back and forth swinging incense, moving in and out the doors of the iconostasis according to rubrics that were as yet unfamiliar. Golden bells chimed against the censer, and the light was smoky and dim. Over to the left a small choir was singing in haunting harmony, voices twining in a capella simplicity. The Truth part was this: the ancient words of this Vesperal service had been chanted for more than a millennium. Lex orandi, lex credendi; what people pray shapes what they believe. This was a church that had never, could never, apostatize.
the 1 needful thing
“The 1 needful thing”
  • My Church, the UGCC was completely suppressed because we refuse to break communion with Rome
  • The Russian Orthodox Church compromised with the USSR and was allowed some limited degree of existence.
  • They were not allowed to have Bible Studies, discussion groups, Catechism, Theology Classes
  • They were only allowed to perform the rituals of the Divine Services:
  • --the Orthodox, in a sense thought: providentially!
  • --There were left with the 1 thing that was absolutely essential
  • --if they themselves had to choose 1 thing in their Church life to retain
  • --this is what they would have chosen: the Divine Service!
  • Liturgy is at the core of the identity of the Byzantine Faith and Practice:
can take the boy out of orthodoxy
can take the boy out of Orthodoxy
  • In a Pentecostal, a convert from the Orthodox Church to Pentecostalism was giving his Testimony
  • --why did he become Protestant:
  • --did not talk about discover of the Bible, did not talk about Corruption, or Clergy
  • --did not even mention, as I recall, a personal relationship with Jesus
  • --then What?
  • --he talked about Liturgy (even though he did not realize it)
  • --he complained about the outdated and ancient chants of the Orthodox church
  • --he extolled the beauty of Protestant Hymnody!
  • --even his rejection of the Byzantine Church was based on Liturgics
ortho doxia
Ortho-Doxia
  • This is at the very core of a Byzantine Christian’s Experience of the Faith and self-understand of their Identity as Christians:
  • 1: even our name for ourselves (“Orthodox” as used in the Vatican approved liturgical texts of the Divine Liturgy): = True Worshipping (not just true believing)
  • --Ortho = true
  • --Dox = glorifying, praising
  • 2: whenever Byzantine rite Christians talk or write about themselves, explain who they are or what their church is all about they always tell the story of the conversion of Rus’ (ie the ancient name for Ukraine)
conversion of ukraine ad 987
Conversion of Ukraine: AD 987:

Prince Volodymyr summoned together his vassals and the city elders, and said to them: "Behold, the Bulgars came before me urging me to accept their religion.

Then came the Germans and praised their own faith; and after them came the Jews.

Finally the Greeks appeared, criticising all other faiths but commanding their own, and they spoke at length, telling the history of the whole world from its beginning.

Their words were artful, and it was wondrous to listen and pleasant to hear them. They preach the existence of another world. 'Whoever adopts our religion and then dies shall arise and live forever. But whosoever embraces another faith, shall be consumed with fire in the next world.'

slide19

What is your opinion on this subject, and what do you answer?" The vassals and the elders replied: "You know, O Prince, that no man condemns his own possessions, but praises them instead. If you desire to make certain, you have servants at your disposal. Send them to inquire about the ritual of each and how he worships God. "

  • Their counsel pleased the prince and all the people, so that they chose good and wise men to the number of ten, and directed them to go first among the Bulgars and inspect their faith. The emissaries went their way, and when they arrived at their destination they beheld the disgraceful actions of the Bulgars and their worship in the mosque; then they returned to their own country.
slide20

Volodymyr then instructed them to go likewise among the Germans, and examine their faith, and finally to visit the Greeks.

  • They thus went into Germany, and after viewing the German ceremonial, they proceeded to Constantinople where they appeared before the emperor.
  • He inquired on what mission they had come, and they reported to him all that had occurred.. When the emperor heard their words, he rejoiced, and did them great honour on that very day.
slide21

On the morrow, the emperor sent a message to the patriarch to inform him that a Ukrainian delegation had arrived to examine the Greek faith, and directed him to prepare the church and the clergy, and to array himself in his sacerdotal robes, so that the Ukrainians might behold the glory of the God of the Greeks.

  • When the patriarch received these commands, he bade the clergy assemble, and they performed the customary rites. They burned incense, and the choirs sang hymns. The emperor accompanied the Ukrainians to the church, and placed them in a wide space, calling their attention to the beauty of the edifice, the chanting, and the offices of the archpriest and the ministry of the deacons, while he explained to them the worship of his God.
  • The Ukrainians were astonished, and in their wonder praised the Greek ceremonial.
slide22

Thus they returned to their own country, and the prince called together his vassals and the elders. Volodymyr then announced the return of the envoys who had been sent out, and suggested that their report be heard. He thus commanded them to speak out before his vassals.

  • The envoys reported: "When we journeyed among the Bulgars, we beheld how they worship in their temple, called a mosque, while they stand ungirt. The Bulgarian bows, sits down, looks hither and thither like one possessed, and there is no happiness among them, but instead only sorrow and a dreadful stench. Their religion is not good.
  • Then we went among the Germans, and saw them performing many ceremonies in their temples; but we beheld no glory there.
slide23
Then we went on to Greece, and the Greeks led us to the edifices where they worship their God, and
  • we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth.
  • For on earth there is no such splendour or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it.
  • We know only that God dwells there among men,
  • and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations.
  • For we cannot forget that beauty.
  • Every man, after tasting something sweet, is afterward unwilling to accept that which is bitter, and therefore
  • we cannot dwell longer here.