Today, while taking a break, I came across some very intriguing articles that I share with you all here. I realize that is not why one comes to this site typically, but in this case, I hope you’ll excuse that and be willing to read these. I also must admit I found a couple of these from Facebook postings by a couple friends of mine.
The first discusses some archaeological finds in Iraq. It also highlights the problem of the dwindling population of Christians, especially since the Iraq war:
The second is a fascinating piece discussing the Greek influence on Western chant and hymnography. Not only is there influence within the Roman Catholic tradition but also Lutheran hymnography. I hope choir directors and others read this and find it to be of interest.
Although the focus is on a site in the Negev, I think Mr. (soon to be Dr.) Schiff raises some very good points that hold across the spectrum of archaeology and history, not only regarding that of Israel’s history but history more generally. Of course, noting that archaeology is used ideologically when interpreting Israel’s history is nothing new. There are “minimalists” and “maximalists” with regard to whether we can accept much of the biblical witness surrounding ancient Israel and the United Kingdom. You know, was David a chieftan more than a king–that sort of thing. What I find the most helpful about this article, however, is not simply raising the question of to what degree can archaeology be “neutral,” but the reminder that history and archaeology are not strictly “neutral” at tourism sites. I think this is a very salient point in an era characterized by a popular view of “history” that tends toward “entertainment” (as one may see on the History Channel). I, for one, think archaeology faces the same challenge history does (even, perhaps especially, church history)–achieving a “neutral” view is an ongoing process rather than an objective reality. That is, when one reads church history and the fathers, one needs to engage in an ascetic discipline. One must struggle against one’s presuppositions and desires. It doesn’t mean one will necessarily change all of one’s presuppositions, but it does mean one must honestly admit what they are and realize how it shapes one’s interpretation. One must also struggle against one’s desires, just as one is to struggle against one’s passions. We might WANT St. Justin Martyr’s description of the liturgy to be exactly what we think it is and might WANT to fill in gaps, but a more realistic stance would be to acknowledge that all he provides is a general pattern, or shape, and that for his parish in Rome. Is it consistent with other liturgical patterns in the early church? Well, that’s a question to be explored in that case, not presumed. Struggling against our desires and presumptions might not be fun and certainly won’t be entertaining in the sense of yuk-yuk, nudge-nudge versions of “history” we can find on television, but it is something we must do. Not to do it, means doing something even worse than what one can find in the Negev–like the museum of creationism or the publication of narratives of Orthodox “histories” that are purposely one-sided, one-dimensional, and omitting of any complexities and weaknesses (and if you haven’t seen those, you haven’t been reading).
Recent archaeological findings just might help give an answer to the question of when Christianity established itself in Western Scotland. The typical date is given around 1000, under the leadership of Sigurd Hlodvirsson. There are indications that it predates the Viking conquests/settlements, however. Crawford has a book entitled Scandinavian Scotland and she allows for some continuity between the church, raising that very likelihood, in my mind. Now, it looks as though one might have a chance to see what further light archaeology may bring to bear on the matter:
We don’t often think about St. Valentine as an actual saint, certainly not in our consumerist driven society. After all, there isn’t much of a way to make Christian martyrdom a consumer good, excepting, perhaps, creating and selling trinkets relating to someone who might be a martyr, as happened (at least for a time) in the case of a young girl who died in the Columbine shooting. I’m not saying we couldn’t make a consumer good from your death. We already do that to some degree with funerals and with the death of the unborn and there is a black market for organs, unfortunately. It can be done. My point is simply that Christian martyrdom itself is not a big seller. Certainly, cute pink hearts are sappier and happier.
That said, one should not think I am against giving “Valentines” or love or showing affection and dedication. To the contrary, I am in support of love and Valentines can be cute. I just think it’s also worth reflecting on examples of those who loved God so much that they were willing to give their lives for him, an act that is in Thanksgiving for Jesus having given his life for us. For taking on our humanity, he filled it with his divinity and granted healing to all.
So, here’s some good reading for St. Valentine’s Day:
Those of you familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures know that the Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrian Empire around 722, when Hoshea attempted to remove the yoke (the Northern Kingdom, called Israel, had been a vassal state of the Assyrian Empire for some time). Hoshea failed and the Northern Kingdom was no more. For more on that event, see 2 Kings 15 and 17. The remnants of that kingdom were known as “Samaritans.”
Anyhow, if you knew all that and more, you might find this recent archaeological article to be of interest. It does not discuss Israel-Assyrian relations, but is interesting for those seeking to learn more about Assyria in general.
Normally at this time of year, if the Red River Valley hears of anything regarding Orthodox Christianity and blessing water, it is a report from some faraway place like Russia or Greece. What many might not know is that right here in Fargo, our small community has been blessing the Red River for the past few years. Here is are a few photos from this event. We blessing near the dike, where the current runs quickly enough that there is open water even in sub-zero temperatures. No jumps in after the cross here, though, both because of temperatures and because of the current. I toss and retrieve the cross myself. Here are a few photos, courtesy Erik Hjelle:
On January 18, 2003, I was ordained to the priesthood in the Orthodox Church in America. I had been a deacon since May 25, 2002. In 2003, I was starting my last semester at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (www.svots.edu). On that same day (January 18th) Nicholas Denysenko was ordained as a deacon. Although I knew him slightly at the time, we have since become friends (and are co-academics, for all the strangeness that brings! )
A picture of me standing next to Archbishop Job (of blessed memory) may be seen here:
The celebration of Theophany, together with the blessing of waters is a uniquely Eastern Christian tradition. The Western Christian tradition celebrates the visitation of the Magi to the young Jesus. These two traditions are not at odds with one another, though. In our Christmas hymnography, we Orthodox sing of the wise men, who were taught by a star to adore Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness ["sun of righteousness" being a reference to Malachi 4:2]. Jesus is the light of the wisdom unto the world. Indeed, Jesus is the Wisdom of God [e.g. Proverbs 8:22 ff]. This is also what we see at Theophany, for being the Wisdom of God, he has always been present with and to God, and thus is fully God himself as well. At Theophany, the Father calls Jesus his “beloved Son,” as a way of describing their relationship to one another. This same Jesus, or Son of God, is also the “Light of the world” [see John 8:12]. Light, Wisdom, Son, all are applied to the one and same Lord Jesus, the Christ. At Theophany, this all comes together in a special way, and we encounter God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This revelation of God, this Theophany, is also linked directly to the re-establishment of creation’s intended end–to radiate the divine goodness of God and serve as a vehicle for giving him thanks. At Theophany, we celebrate this with the blessing of waters. Through our prayers and the grace of the Holy Spirit, we ask God to make the water, and by extension, all that is blessed with it, holy water, done not so as to be a polar opposite of “secular water” (if you will) but as the fulfillment of what water is to be, what it was to be in Paradise and what it will be again in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Well, St. Nicholas of Myra, which was in Lycia, which is now in today’s Turkey, is the patron saint of our parish. The following provides some neat photography, especially the picture of the sanctuary of the chapel as well as a brief history of the city. It also gives an idea of what archaeologists hope they will find.