Today is the feast of Transfiguration in the Orthodox Church. Jesus hiked up Mt. Tabor with Peter, James, and John, and was transfigured before them so that he shone with the uncreated light of the Most Holy Trinity. Transfiguration comes near harvest time, and so a tradition has been established to bless grapes and sometimes other fruits and vegetables. There is a deep symbolism here. Grapes take their flavor from their environment—the soil and the rains where they are grown. The ripened grape is a transfiguration of the earth. The grape itself is transfigured into the Eucharist, when fruit of the vine becomes the blood of our Savior. Continue reading “Lord, Bless These Store-Bought Grapes”
Actually they aren’t even talking about women. They’re talking about Greek. The GOA (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America) made it about women when they opted to approve a revision of the creed from “for us and for our salvation” to “for us men and for our salvation.” The problem with this revision, the authors (Aristotle Papanikolaou and John Fotopoulos) is that it makes gender exclusive language that was originally gender inclusive. Greek, like many other languages, has gendered nouns. Anthropos is a masculine noun. But that does not mean that anthropos is male anymore than German a German girl is an “it” (das Mädchen is a neuter noun). Anthropos refers to humanity in general. Anér means “man.” Continue reading “Inclusive Language in the Liturgy”
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.
Why do I still go to church? This is a question I ask myself pretty much every Sunday morning, at least. At one level I think this is the wrong question. I remember this one Evangelical woman I knew. Whenever she would talk to me about church, she spoke in terms of “getting fed” or getting her needs met. I try not to think that way. If God is the Good itself, then worshipping God is self-evidently good. The answer to the question, “Why go to church?” is the same as for “Why climb a mountain?” Because it’s there. Still, my question is more introspective. It is not why I should go to church. It is more practical, more human: Why do I keep going?
Well, it’s Great Lent again in the Orthodox Church (I rant about our stupid inability to get on the same calendrical page here). This is a period of more focused spiritual reflection, of “fasting, confession, and prayer,” all three of which I suck at. Continue reading “Fasting is My Frenemy”