Igitur non dormiamus sicut ceteri.

My Confession of Envy

I realize that this is my thirds straight post on the Orthodox Church, but I simply can’t help but to find myself showing a little envy for the faithful of Eastern Orthodoxy.  No worries, dear reader, this is not me becoming Orthodox (though I appreciate and admire their many practices and beliefs) but I simply find myself wishing that Roman Catholics could fly under the radar like our brothers in the East (or, as they at least do so in America).  It seems that no matter what the Catholics do, they will be criticized and thrown through fire by our society, meanwhile few even are aware that the Eastern Orthodox exist.

This envy especially became apparent with the news reports of the Catholic welcoming in the Anglicans.  All kinds of nastiness is given, questions of motives, and whatever name calling the simple engage in.  However, the Eastern Orthodox Church in Moscow and Antioch had started opening their doors to an Anglican/Western Use almost a century ago and this has included bringing in entire Anglican parishes as recently as 1991.  At no time, as far as I can find, did the New York Times reserve a space for decrying that the Orthodox were poaching Anglicans and Roman Catholics, that the Orthodox were behind the times or any of that nonsense.

In general, the mass of Americas media legions want to see the Catholic church as backwards and bigoted, but I often wonder how they would feel if they encountered a traditional priest of Orthodoxy.  I remember one encounter with a Serbian Orthodox priest who, when I inquired about attending Divine Liturgy informed me, “We would love to welcome you.  However, I must tell you that you are in schism and thus we can’t offer you communion.  But please join us for coffee afterwards.”  There was no cruelness in his voice, he was merely stating a fact from his perspective and in general he and the parish were among the kindest people I’ve ever met.  However, in this time there is no way a Roman priest could say that and not have throngs of freaked out parishioners claiming that he’s bigoted, anti-ecumenical and unchristian.  In fact, how much ire would be brought about if every Roman Catholic parish published this in their bulletin?

For some people communion is merely the opportunity to share
a sense of “fellowship” with everyone present regardless of their beliefs and practices. We believe that such a practice cheapens and trivializes communion and denies the basic Biblical understanding of what communion is all about.
As St. Paul says, those who do not discern the Body and Blood of Christ partake of their own peril (I Corinthians 11:27-28). While many non-Orthodox Christians may individually hold the same or similar views as we hold, we cannot examine each person on their beliefs as they come to the altar rail, so only Orthodox Christians may receive communion.

I can imagine now that people would clamor that they had some “right” to the blessed Body and Blood of Christ, which is born as much from a misunderstanding of the Eucharist as much as it is a misunderstanding of rights.

I am happy to be Catholic, but I at times can’t help but to wonder what it would be like to have an Orthodox faith in America and no one think me backwards or bigoted.


One response

  1. Tony

    When Tim Wilson and I were in Alaska for the Fulchino wedding, we went to a Russian Orthodox museum that was closing down (for lack of interest, I assume), bought a few things, and got a mini-lecture on their difference from Catholics as the proprietor made us coffee. To walk through the place and look in at the sanctuary (?) was to wish to be Orthodox, especially in a place where it’d had some foothold.

    I’d never thought about it in terms of PR, but it’s true that Catholicism is never thought of as what the high-falutin’ call the “other.” It’s always something people think they know in advance.


    31 October, 2009 at 5:03 pm