Concerns about the Great and Holy Council

The First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea

Soon the Orthodox Church will convoke a Great and Holy Council, the first such council in over a millennium. Though by no means ecumenical in any official sense (at least not yet), it is a historic meeting, for which I have felt a deep and abiding ambivalence.

I am a convert to the Orthodox Church. Unlike many converts, I did not see the deep and rich traditions of the Orthodox Church as providing me with resources to be more fundamentalistic than I was before (such as I hear creationists citing Basil as proof of a young earth). I was never a fundamentalist. What attracted me to Orthodoxy was the ambiguity of it all, which is another way of saying Mystery. Jaroslav Pelikan, another convert, described Orthodoxy as the church of the seven councils that we deem ecumenical. We have a lot of other canons, synods, traditions, and opinions, but they are not finally and firmly authoritative in the same way that those minimum of dogmas are.

Continue reading “Concerns about the Great and Holy Council”

The Kingdoms of God and Constantine

So now I am going to sum up Part II of Orthodoxy without Empire. Last time I talked about the church-culture limen and two inadequate ways of relating to it. In Part II, I argue that a more coherent account of this limen can actually be found in the rubble of the Byzantine Empire. I know that sounds counterintuitive when you consider that one of the options I criticize is a kind of neo-imperialism, but hear me out, because I think what I am working toward is actually an anti-imperialistic. It’s this socio-political ideal called symphonia.

Continue reading “The Kingdoms of God and Constantine”

Prayerful Napping on Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve. My kids are watching The Magic Schoolbus. Meanwhile I am uttering silent prayers for a peaceful evening. We are about to go to church. I expect we will be home a bit after midnight. Our kids will probably get us up at 6:30. If we’re lucky.

This is holy. All of this. The fatigue, the chaos of the holidays, the screaming of children, and the cookies we baked from a package because I didn’t have time to make shortbread – these are sanctified because they are ordered toward the Eucharist.

Continue reading “Prayerful Napping on Christmas Eve”

Why I Love-Hate “Women’s Month”

cropped-Theotokos-Eucharist.jpgMarch is the month when women across my archdiocese will take a more visible role during the Divine Liturgy. Mostly “Women’s Month” means they will read the Epistle and collect the offering. I am glad for this month because I do think women need not only work with the kids or in the kitchen, but giving them one month out of the year feels like an empty gesture that, I’m afraid, reinforces the paternalism it pretends to testify against.

Women’s Month is proof that there is misogyny in our church, just like Black History Month proves systemic racism. African Americans need one month out of the year only because people like me pretty much get free reign over the other eleven. The same is true for women. Every month is Men’s Month.

Continue reading “Why I Love-Hate “Women’s Month””

The Blessing and Burden of Holy Tradition

Having been caught up in other projects and deadlines, I picked up Pantelis Kalaitzidis’ Orthodoxy & Political Theology last night after several weeks’ absence. The following words reminded me of how our love for “Holy Tradition” can kill our witness.

A certain version of theology…[has] turned Tradition into traditionalism and taught us to associate the identity of the church mainly – or even exclusively – with the past, making us accustomed to an Orthodoxy that is permanently out of step with its time and history in general. In fact, Orthodox theology often suffers…from a kind of inertia with regard to participating in history and the socio-cultural context…Speaking about the church’s transforming presence and activity in society, culture, and politics is reduced to nothing more than wishful thinking. Continue reading “The Blessing and Burden of Holy Tradition”

The Public Role of Church and Theology

This morning I came across six theses by Pantelis Kalaitzidis on the role the church should play in public life. They are in his book, Orthodoxy and Political Theology, which was recommended by my friend Brandon Gallaher. When the book arrived, I flipped it over and read the following question on the back cover, “Why has Eastern Orthodoxy not developed a full-throated political theological voice?” This is the same question that drove my dissertation and drives my book. (Once again, Brandon hits the nail on the head!) Continue reading “The Public Role of Church and Theology”