Sunday was Pascha (“Easter”) for Orthodox Christians across the globe. For us, it meant the conclusion to a long Holy Week and a wonderful celebration of the resurrection of Christ in the very earliest hours of the morning. I hope to upload some pictures in the future.
I also thought I would highlight some additional online resources for those of us interested in church history. One blog I have recently encountered and found interesting is one written by a gentleman in Grand Forks, no less:
Although his interests concentrate on Baptists, it is still interesting and the Gilded Age is certainly a fascinating period of American history. Nicholas Bjerring, the first convert priest to Orthodoxy (though later also the first convert priest to turn apostate from Orthodoxy) lived during this time. Readers may track his story down in my article here:
“A Catholic, Presbyterian, and Orthodox Journey: The Changing Church Affiliation and Enduring Social Vision of Nicholas Bjerring,” Zeitschrift fur Neuere Theologiegeschichte/Journal for the History of Modern Theology 14, no. 1 (2007): 49-80.
Those interested in history more generally, especially of this region, should look into the Northern Great Plains Conferences. I just learned of these. Why is it that I, a Ph.D. in historical theology, only now learn of this? These guys really need their own website. Anyhow, here is the information on the last conference:
Dr. David Fagerberg, a liturgical theologian, has recently published a book entitled On Liturgical Asceticism. Essentially, this book seeks to explore and express the interplay between theology, liturgy, and asceticism. It might strike some people as surprising or even odd, but as they’ll quickly find out, that is likely because they’ve been out of touch with the Christian tradition. Fagerberg is a liturgical theologian who has studied his own Roman Catholic tradition intently and who has yet also been indelibly shaped by the Eastern Orthodox tradition. In fact, in this book, Fagerberg relies heavily upon the Orthodox tradition. His main contribution is showing how liturgy, at its heart, is an ascetical activity that serves to deepen one’s life in Christ. It may not be the way many are used to thinking of liturgy, but it is the way Orthodox theology operates. I will try to find time to offer a few quotes and/or additional thoughts as we proceed through Holy Week. Here is a link to the book on Amazon. The customer review is worth reading too
Well, it seems that once again, what is going on within geo-politics affects whether and how we understand the history behind the Bible and archaeology evidence. It seems that there is a significant find that could shape discourse concerning the United Kingdom but it has been buried and ignored because it could become problematic for Israeli-Palestinian relations:
Bishop Alexander has been appointed the Locum Tenens. For now, there are no immediate plans to proceed with election procedures. His Beatitude wishes to grant the diocese time to heal. The synod voted overwhelmingly to tell Bishop Matthias to resign and after negotiating a severance package, Bishop Matthias did, indeed, agree to resign. Now we move forward, hopefully a more peaceful diocese, and hopefully the kind of diocese in which the victim can feel at home, at some point in the future anyhow.
North Dakota has recently passed legislation restricting abortion. Although, in part, it draws a line at a “heartbeat,” which does not define when conception occurs and allows for “the morning after pill,” and certainly does not eliminate any and all(early) abortions, quite a few have reacted against it. Likewise, there have been objections to the bill requiring an abortion doctor to have admission privileges at a local hospital. Finally, there has been outrage even over the bill prohibiting genetic selection as a reason for abortion. Such bills are at least consistent with Orthodox Christianity (though Orthodox do debate how and when to legislate on moral issues, including abortion). Certainly, Orthodoxy’s canon law prohibits abortion or even causing abortion.
Interestingly, it is not just here in North Dakota where abortion has risen as a hot issue. I have recently learned that at one of our Orthodox seminaries, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, a pro-life society has begun. I provide a link to their blog here, which I’ll likewise include in the “Related Orthodox Sites” widget:
The work of Dr. Jeff Bishop (at SLU, from which I earned my Ph.D.) is very fascinating in this regard. This society did not exist while I was a student at SVS, but it has encouraged and enabled some thoughtful discussions concerning this issue. One talk may be found here:
Scroll down for the podcast entitled “St. Ambrose Society” for a talk given by Ian Jones, also an SVS alum, who is a doctoral candidate at Fordham. It is a talk worth listening to and may be worth remembering as this issue continues to be debated and discussed in North Dakota, which will almost certainly happen in full force next year when voters decide on a “right to life” amendment.
As many, if not all of the readers of our parish blog already know, I have been commissioned as a chaplain in the Air National Guard. I include a picture of that here:
My date is easy to remember: Valentine’s Day.
The OCA has recently posted some deployments by Orthodox chaplains serving the army and Marines (Navy chaplains serve Marines). We shall keep these priests in our prayers and we ask others to do so as well.
This Wednesday, tomorrow already, we will discuss St. Ephrem the Syrian in our Wednesday educational meeting. St. Ephrem is an important saint for many reasons, not the least of which is the Lenten prayer repeated so frequently throughout Lent:
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk, but grant, rather, the spirit of chastity humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages.
Many of us, however, may not know much about St. Ephrem. We will discuss more and look at one of his Hymns on Paradise on Wednesday, but for those of you who cannot join us, let me share just a little. He was born likely around or shortly after the turn of the fourth century to Christian parents. He served as a deacon in Nisibis but near the end of his life, had to flee to Edessa along with other Christians, when the Byzantine Empire had to cede Nisibis to the Persian Empire after the pagan Emperor Julian was defeated by the Persians. Ephrem was known for his writings, especially his hymns, as well as organizing charitable work during a famine in Edessa near the end of his life. Those interested in learning more about him are welcome to join us tomorrow evening at 7:30 at Caribou Coffee, just south of 25th Street and 13th Avenue.
Today, Orthodox Christians around the world entered into Lent. Western Christians have been in Lent for some time. Most years, Western Christian Easter does not align with Eastern Christian Easter (called Pascha, the Greek word for Passover). This year is one such year and so the Lents do not align either. This year, in fact, the East and the West are quite far apart. There are historical, theological reasons for the different calendars, which could be summarized as: the Orthodox still calculate Pascha/Easter in keeping with how Jews calculate Passover and Pope Gregory XII changed to the modern “Gregorian” calendar, which Protestants also accepted.
Eastern Christian practice begins Lent in the evening with Forgiveness Vespers (at some parishes, observed in the afternoon), because liturgically, the day begins in the evening. Those familiar with Ash Wednesday might be surprised to learn that Orthodox do not hold that service but instead a Forgiveness Vespers. This vespers contains a penitential feel and during the service, the liturgical colors are changed from gold to a dark purple. At the conclusion of the service, those present ask forgiveness of one another, individually. This includes the clergy asking forgiveness from each and every parishioner present. Some traditional Paschal/Easter hymns are then sung as well, as a foretaste of what’s to come at the end of Lent.
Although Orthodox Christians may be known for the restrictive fasting they are called to do during Lent, forgiveness is at the heart of Lent. May God forgive us all!
According to the article, the main way in which they pursued this task was to analyze vocabulary within the documents, which was then compared to the vocabulary within documents by known authors. That is quite useful. When I authored my book on Sarapion of Thmuis, I made use of a similar approach when arguing that he did, in fact, write the Letter to the Monks. It is important to remember, however, that it takes more than just common vocabulary. A stronger case can also be made if rhetorical patterns are common, for instance. In the case of Hebrews, although the computer-assisted scholars determined St. Paul was the most likely author of the candidates investigated, one needs to utilize other aspects of the text beyond vocabulary. Of course, computers can help with that too. I think it’s fair to say that “digital humanities” has a long future before it.