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DL: Tell me about Eastern Christianity

I was raised Catholic, atheist/agnostic now, but I've always been a little fascinated by the Orthodox Churches. I absolutely love Russian Orthodox music (the attached is possibly the most beautiful piece of music I've ever heard; its opening bars move me to tears -- yes I know, MARY!!!! -- but so much of the music has a sublime, enteral quality. A friend, raised Greek Orthodox, tells me the music is the one thing she still loves about the faith.

I remember being told many years ago that the Orthodox Churches tend to be more mystical (while Catholicism is more intellectual), which I found to be an interesting dichotomy. Can anybody else weigh in? Was anyone raised Orthodox?

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by Anonymousreply 4621 hours ago

*ethereal quality

by Anonymousreply 1Last Saturday at 12:00 PM

I was raised Orthodox Christian and only have fond memories of church, our traditions, etc. I find myself drifting back to it after years of agnosticism.

And yes, there is a next-to esoteric or mystical nature to the Eastern Orthodox Church that's very different from Western Christianity.

by Anonymousreply 2Last Saturday at 12:16 PM

I've always wanted to visit Mount Athos, I own a few icons from there:

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by Anonymousreply 3Last Saturday at 12:30 PM

Another beautiful Russian Orthodox chant for you OP

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by Anonymousreply 4Last Saturday at 12:45 PM

OP, I also find Coptic (Egytian), Ethiopian and Assyrian Christians very interesting too.

by Anonymousreply 5Last Saturday at 12:55 PM

It's exactly the same as all christian sects...without all the fun and whimsy of the Inquisition and catholic/protestant hoopla.

by Anonymousreply 6Last Saturday at 12:56 PM

[quote]“The Roman Catholic Church is for saints and sinners alone – for respectable people, the Anglican Church will do.” - Oscar Wilde

I don't really believe this, but it always makes me chuckle!

by Anonymousreply 7Last Saturday at 12:59 PM

The only time I attended a service, it seemed like incense overload---this was in Jordan.

by Anonymousreply 8Last Saturday at 1:18 PM

Thank you r4!

by Anonymousreply 9Last Saturday at 1:37 PM

Sadly, Eastern Orthodox is even more homophobic than Catholicism. The Russian Orthodox church has been at the forefront of the laws in Russia used as an excuse to jail gay people (for promulgating homosexuality, even though, ostensibly, it's not against the law to be homosexual). And the other Orthodox groups (Serbian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Greek) are almost all equally homophobic.

There are theological aspects to Orthodoxy that appeal to me - for instance, they don't believe in the concept of original sin as it is taught in both Catholicism and in Protestant sects. In other words, in the west, Christians have traditionally been taught that all human beings are born with original sin and inherently sinful, and thus need Christ's intercession to forgive that sin before we can be saved. This was a concept of Augustine, (400 AD), whose theology had much more influence on the western branch of Christianity than on the eastern. The orthodox believe that there was an original sin (Adam and Eve's sin), which they call "ancestral sin" , but that the result of that was that we all die. Otherwise, they teach that we don't share in the guilt of that sin. I'm not religious, but was raised Catholic, and the concept of original sin always bothered me.

The music is beautiful, but the services are long (some might call them interminable) - as in approaching 3 hours long. Also, in Orthodoxy, well over half of the year is made of up of fast days. (Every Wednesday and Friday, Lent, Advent, (both 40+ days), Apostles' fast, Dormition fast, ), so the meat lovers on DL might have some trouble with that aspect. (Might be good for those ever expanding waistlines). That's why so much food of Eastern and southern Europe uses mushrooms, eggplant, hummus, falafel (chick peas), fava beans, cheese fish etc, They are meat substitutes for all of those fast days.

by Anonymousreply 10Last Saturday at 1:42 PM

R10, good points. Augustine sucked. He couldn't keep it in his pants and--as is typical of these "abstinence only" freaks--moralized others, basically telling them sex is bad, especially (gasp!) homosexuality. Thanks Augustine!

by Anonymousreply 11Last Saturday at 1:45 PM

This is pretty interesting:

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by Anonymousreply 12Last Saturday at 4:43 PM

I'm lying in bed with the lights out, looking at the almost-full moon, and listening to this.

It's sublime.

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by Anonymousreply 13Last Saturday at 5:13 PM

r10 I assume you mean days of abstinence? THOSE are the meatless days. Fast days are when much less food is to be eaten.

by Anonymousreply 14Last Saturday at 6:10 PM

I was raised Orthodox. Homosexuality is viewed as a sin, if practiced. However I remember a young gay priest and his “helper” who were tolerated by the hierarchy. I don’t think the issue is as cut and dried as r10 suggests.

Most services are 2 hours (the liturgical service), but most churches have a service before the liturgy.

In Ukraine and Russia, churches don’t have benches, you stand during the service. There’s also a lot more running around, lighting candles and praying for the dead or various saints.

by Anonymousreply 15Last Saturday at 6:19 PM

Which ones are the ones where the brides and grooms wear crowns?

by Anonymousreply 16Last Saturday at 6:20 PM

Orthodoxy, r16.

by Anonymousreply 17Last Saturday at 6:22 PM

R14 No, during Great Lent, Wednesdays, and Fridays, daily fasting is at its most strict, abstaining from: meat (anything with a backbone), dairy products, eggs, olive oil and wine. Additionally, during Great Lent, the size and number of meals, as well as the selection, are smaller. On many other feast or fast days, particular foods are avoided or permitted, in lesser degrees of fasting.

Orthodox Christians are borderline vegan for about half the calendar year because of all the fasting.

by Anonymousreply 18Last Saturday at 6:23 PM


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by Anonymousreply 19Last Saturday at 6:28 PM

r18 Yet, there ARE separate fast days and abstinence days. No?

by Anonymousreply 20Last Saturday at 6:28 PM

R20 Fast days [italic]are[/italic] abstinence days. Catholics, however, distinguish between fasting and abstinence; the former referring to the discipline of taking one full meal a day, and the latter signifying the discipline of eating no meat.

by Anonymousreply 21Last Saturday at 6:34 PM

Romanian Orthodox wedding:

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by Anonymousreply 22Last Saturday at 6:36 PM

R17, R19, thanks -- I do think that adds a nice aesthetic touch to the otherwise boring and formulaic affairs of hetero weddings.

If two Orthodox grooms get married, do they wear the same crowns? ;)

by Anonymousreply 23Last Saturday at 6:42 PM

r21 Thank you for explaining what I originally explained to you. Enjoy your evening.

by Anonymousreply 24Last Saturday at 6:46 PM

I love the older churches. They have better costumes. Protestantism is prissy and too admonitory for my taste.

Nice music post OP. You might also like Arvo Part.

by Anonymousreply 25Last Saturday at 6:48 PM

R24 They are called [italic]fast days[/italic], though. Not "days of abstinence" like you told R10:

[quote][R10] I assume you mean days of abstinence? THOSE are the meatless days. Fast days are when much less food is to be eaten.

No separate fast days and abstinence days for Orthodox Christians, they're not Catholics.

by Anonymousreply 26Last Saturday at 6:57 PM

There is a strong current of ethnocentrism among the Orthodox. The Orthodox Churches are essentially national churches. If you don’t have a connection to the country of origin, you may feel like an interloper.

The Orthodox allow priests to marry, but it must occur before ordination. Bishops must be celibate. They do not ordain women. There’s little interest in ecumenism. Divorce is permitted under certain circumstances. The saying goes that the Orthodox Church “blesses the first marriage, performs the second, tolerates the third, and forbids the fourth".

by Anonymousreply 27Last Saturday at 7:01 PM

My roommate was baptized Orthodox Christian by her Romanian side of the family and would like to ask you guys what on earth is so mystical about having all those ridiculous saints (about 3 per day, each with a more science fiction story of sainthood than the other) and why God would give a damn when you eat meat, dairy or oils. Homophobic and corrupt, the church all over sucks. It may not be as hypocritical as the Catholic one in that it recognizes that sex is part of life for almost everyone, so priests can marry and a married man can give marriage advice while a celibate just seems creepy doing so, but it is only heterosexual marriage. In the city I live in, the Church has vehemently tried to oppose Pride each year and convince the city not to allow it. They counter it with a "Parada Normalității" which I think needs no translation.

by Anonymousreply 28Last Saturday at 7:04 PM

Divine Liturgy

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by Anonymousreply 29Last Saturday at 7:09 PM

R3 The late gay travel writer and tour guide Hanns Ebensten's book "Volleyball with the Cuna Indians" includes a hilarious piece about his time on male-only Mt. Athos with a gay tour group and frenzied monks who were "more than friendly". As with most religions, Eastern Orthodoxy does not practice what it preaches with regard to homosexuality.

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by Anonymousreply 30Last Saturday at 8:17 PM

The chanting, the flickering tapers, the incense. The endless repetition of the liturgy. All while standing for hours.. Designed to induce a hypnotic trance state. Has been working very effectively for 2000 years. No need to thank me.

by Anonymousreply 31Last Saturday at 9:32 PM

My mother's side of the family is Greek Orthodox so I've been to plenty of weddings, etc. in that church. They have interesting Easter traditions -- first of all, Easter is usually on a different day that "regular" Easter (or as one of my aunt's called it "white people's Easter.") They dye their eggs a very deep red to represent Christ's blood, then they have a contest to crack the egg with against another's at the the dinner table. They used to celebrate "name days" (from the saint after whom you were named) instead of birthdays, but once they've been Americanized, that all changes. My mother and her many siblings all had Greek names, but all of them Americanized them (they were all born in the US.)

by Anonymousreply 32Last Saturday at 9:45 PM

[quote]There is a strong current of ethnocentrism among the Orthodox.

Very interesting, r27. I'd say this is a main difference, then, between Orthodox and Catholic

by Anonymousreply 33Yesterday at 1:41 AM

Some sublime Rachmaninov vespers performed by the USSR Ministry of Culture Chamber Choir:

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by Anonymousreply 34Yesterday at 2:42 AM

r34 Rachmaninov's Vespers are what led me to Russian Orthodox music more generally. Beautiful.

This is a current favorite -- Chesnokov's Do Not Cast Me Off in Old Age. Amazing basso profondo. Lyrics (from Psalm 71):

Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.

For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together.

They say, “God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him.”

Do not be far from me, my God; come quickly, God, to help me.

May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace.

As for me, I will always have hope; will praise you more and more.

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by Anonymousreply 35Yesterday at 2:48 AM

For Easter, eggs are traditionally dyed naturally with onion skins and flowers. My mother would save onion skins in a big container throughout the year for this. And yes at that egg cracking thing, R32! I always found it was easier to 'win' if you were on the bottom lol.

This is more or less the process:

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by Anonymousreply 36Yesterday at 3:51 AM

The egg thing between males is about establishing dominance isn't it? It started with the Greeks and everything is a competition for them.

by Anonymousreply 37Yesterday at 4:28 AM

I visited Mt Athos a few years ago: imagine waking up to the creepy sound of semantron in the middle of the night, and then attending a mass at 3:30 AM in a medieval church lit only by candlelight, surrounded with nothing but chanting monks wearing great schemas. That was definitely one of my most unforgettable travelling experiences, even if I'm an atheist.

The local monks are super friendly but when you start chatting with them the first thing they ask you is "Are you Orthodox?" and when they hear you're not they're not even trying to hide the look of disappointment on their faces.

by Anonymousreply 38Yesterday at 5:15 AM

R38 That sounds wonderful. I hope to visit one day.

60 Minutes did a great program on Mt Athos:

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by Anonymousreply 39Yesterday at 5:38 AM

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are Greek Orthodox, Rita was born into the religion and Tom converted. They have now become Greek citizens.

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by Anonymousreply 40Yesterday at 6:04 AM

There's no underwear beneath those robes!

by Anonymousreply 41Yesterday at 7:58 AM

Sacrilege r41!

by Anonymousreply 42Yesterday at 8:04 AM

Of course not underwear was not invented in the 5th century Byzantium and we've changed absolutely nothing since then.

by Anonymousreply 43Yesterday at 9:03 AM

I have a small collection of Pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs). They're also a tradition in a number of other Eastern European cultures. Some of the symbols are pre-Christian, but the eggshells themselves are too fragile to document their history, although there are examples in pottery that date prior to the Christian era. Apparently, Christian symbolism was introduced when the religion itself became established. I'm Catholic and find something reassuring in the way pagan symbols and beliefs survive in contemporary Christian religions.

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by Anonymousreply 44Yesterday at 11:24 AM

I am not certain I agree that Orthodoxy is ethnocentric. I believe it’s largely because services are conducted in local languages and because there is no one hierarchy governing the entire Orthodox Church.

I am Ukrainian Orthodox, and when Ethiopians first arrived here, they attended our church, despite the fact services are conducted in Ukrainian. They were welcomed warmly. The Ethiopians, with help from Ukrainian church members, raised funds to buy land for their own church, closer to where most if them live, and where services would be conducted in their own language. A local Ethiopian woman won the lottery, and donated all the cash to build the church. The Ethiopians still use the Ukrainian church’s attached hall for social functions.

There is an Orthodox church in my city that has services in English, and its membership is comprised primarily of people who have come to the faith as adults, almost exclusively with no Orthodoxy in their family backgrounds.

by Anonymousreply 45Yesterday at 1:32 PM

R36 - that is EXACTLY how my half Romanian roommate made them this year. I was like WTF when she came home with purple onions and a pair of ladies stockings and flower petals and shamrocks (they grow here in April). She peeled the onion, placed the petal or shamrock on the egg, wrapped it in the stocking and boiled it. I have also been collecting some hand-painted wooden eggs EXACTLY like R44 and some hand embroidered pieces of the national costumes (like the sash and hand engraved belts) of the men as in R22's picture. Of course they do two weddings, a traditional one and a modern one. The bride and groom are given coronets and walk around the pulpit 3 times like in "The Deer Hunter".

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