Author Topic: The only and most known problem with Orthodoxy  (Read 2727 times)

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Offline Andreas

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The only and most known problem with Orthodoxy
« on: August 31, 2004, 03:37:55 AM »
Is ethnicty and language. It's driving me nuts. Every Church is either Greek, Russian, Serbian or something else. Even the OCA parishes I know of only do parts in English, and I still see the ethnic thing coming into play. Hey, I am ethnic and it bothers me. ;)

I often wonder how in the world I or anybody else could expect someone to convert to Orthodoxy under these conditions. :-[
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Offline Fr. David

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Re:The only and most known problem with Orthodoxy
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2004, 07:04:30 AM »
Is ethnicty and language. It's driving me nuts. Every Church is either Greek, Russian, Serbian or something else. Even the OCA parishes I know of only do parts in English, and I still see the ethnic thing coming into play. Hey, I am ethnic and it bothers me. ;)

I often wonder how in the world I or anybody else could expect someone to convert to Orthodoxy under these conditions. :-[

Mmm.  Well, it's kind of the same way (though this is just culture, not language) that Russians or Mexicans would want to become Evangelical Protestant, complete with the ethnic taboos or emphases of America (strong emphasis against sexual sin/drinking/dancing, spiritual identity as that of the lone individual, American/Anglo-ish worship songs, etc)...in both sets of converts, there's a truth that's been seen that goes past the culture, the food...now, granted, the Protestant Churches in these other places are not made up of a percentage of Americans living there, so I know it's not the same thing...but I was (eventually) able to see that, past the Arabic, the lack of personal space and the odd-but-somehow-delicious food, there was a faith that was celebrated that I had been looking for.
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Offline Augustine

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Re:The only and most known problem with Orthodoxy
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2004, 09:28:48 AM »
IMHO, the refusal to use vernacular in services is rarely excusable.  The fact is that most of the "ethnics" themselves (save in the few parishes which play host to a large number of immigrants) speak the common tongue of their neighbours, so it is not a case of having to choose between one group or the other (between so called "ethnics" and "converts"), which is too often how this matter is framed.

Besides the "converts" though, I think it's worth considering the welfare of the children of these "ethnics".  The fact is that an increasing number of them (and it grows with each successive generation) do not speak the "mother tongue", at least not well enough to make heads or tails out of the Church services.  Sadly what differentiates them from their "convert" brethren is what can make the difference in the face of such an obstical - zeal.  Where as a convert obviously has an interest in Orthodoxy and may put up with not understanding much of the services (but do their best, and suplement their knowledge of Orthodoxy in other ways), this is sadly not a given in the case of "born Orthodox."  Thus, if they don't absorb it in the Church, or have their interest engaged in the Church, it will not happen elsewhere - in which case, you'll be lucky if they become "Christmas & Easter Orthodox".  It is incredible how superficial the knowledge of many "born & raised Orthodox" is, in regard to even the most basic subjects - subjects which I cannot help but believe would have been sufficiently impressed upon them had they had the foggiest what was being chanted in their parish every week.


Offline Αριστοκλής

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Re:The only and most known problem with Orthodoxy
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2004, 10:21:54 AM »

Besides the "converts" though, I think it's worth considering the welfare of the children of these "ethnics".  The fact is that an increasing number of them (and it grows with each successive generation) do not speak the "mother tongue", at least not well enough to make heads or tails out of the Church services.  Sadly what differentiates them from their "convert" brethren is what can make the difference in the face of such an obstical - zeal.  Where as a convert obviously has an interest in Orthodoxy and may put up with not understanding much of the services (but do their best, and suplement their knowledge of Orthodoxy in other ways), this is sadly not a given in the case of "born Orthodox."  Thus, if they don't absorb it in the Church, or have their interest engaged in the Church, it will not happen elsewhere - in which case, you'll be lucky if they become "Christmas & Easter Orthodox".  It is incredible how superficial the knowledge of many "born & raised Orthodox" is, in regard to even the most basic subjects - subjects which I cannot help but believe would have been sufficiently impressed upon them had they had the foggiest what was being chanted in their parish every week.
Augustine,
I, a "born and raised Orthodox", find myself experiencing a bit of umbrage at some of these sentiments.
First, it is not my place to judge any other Christian's faith - there is only One who can do that.
I am certain that many cradles understand their Faith in ways a convert cannot. Not having to shed wrong-thinking and mis-belief, their path(s) to understanding and glorification of the Lord may be, by definition, different from converts who have been motivated, spiritually and intellectually, to discover Orthodoxy. I am not disabusing converts, far from it. Indeed many of us cradles convert ourselves every single day, every second.
The start of this thread brought to my mind the first council of the Church - in Jerusalem with James, the brother of the Lord, presiding and its grappling with the the 'gentile questions' - an ethnic argument if there ever was one. That issue, in its day, was settled; so shall this be and hopefully in doing so not lead any of us to sin ourselves in judging others.

Demetri, cradle married to devout convert  :)
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Offline Schultz

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Re:The only and most known problem with Orthodoxy
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2004, 11:12:01 AM »
Quote
I am certain that many cradles understand their Faith in ways a convert cannot. Not having to shed wrong-thinking and mis-belief, their path(s) to understanding and glorification of the Lord may be, by definition, different from converts who have been motivated, spiritually and intellectually, to discover Orthodoxy.


This argument can be turned right on its head and used against you.  A "convert" Orthodox would never take his new faith for granted because he knows what "wrong-thinking" is and how it truly affects one's faith.  

I also think that Augustine's comments were more geared towards those ethnic and "cradle" parishes where Slavonic or Ukrainian or Greek was chanted every week as opposed to the lingua franca of most of the people, hence his final comment.
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Offline katherine 2001

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Re:The only and most known problem with Orthodoxy
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2004, 11:34:58 AM »
I've been to several OCA churches, and everyone of them has done the entire service in English.  That may not be true in churches where there are a lot of people from Russia or other Eastern European countries (recent arrivals) that may not know English all that well yet.  

I've also visited a Greek church and a Serbian church, and most of the services were done with mostly English.  The parts that weren't were in the liturgy book in English so that I could follow it.  I even tried singing in the phonetic Greek.  The scripture readings and sermons were totally in English.  

I have to admit that it bothers me that often cradle Orthodox are held out as not knowing about their faith and being nominal.  That is not at all true.  Yes, there are some that are that way, but there are many who aren't.  Personally, I am thankful that I've had some very devout cradle Orthodox to help me learn the faith, as poorly as I know it.  I still have much to learn from them.  I have judged cradles in the past, and I ask the Lord's forgiveness and the forgiveness of cradles for doing so.    


Offline ania

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Re:The only and most known problem with Orthodoxy
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2004, 11:57:40 AM »
There are many parishes who do services mostly or all in English, you have to find the right one.  
This question is best solved by individual parishes.  The way to go about changing things if you want them changed is to become paying members of parishes, propose things at parish meetings, and if there is enough support for it, things will change.  If the parish I go to now switched entirely to English (we have 2 services now every Sat, Sun) it would take some getting used to, but if a good enough argument was brought before the parish council, it was agreed upon, well, so be it.  Buy the Liturgy/Vigil in English, and you'll be able to follow along in the meantime, which are usually available at your parish bookstore.  
I find your almost blanket statement that cradle Orthodox do not understand their faith somewhat insulting, as I've grown up in a mostly cradle community that <<gasp>> still serves in Slavonic <<oh the insanity>> and quite like it.  And yes, there are members of it who don't speak any Russian.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2004, 01:27:38 PM by ania »
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Offline Fr. David

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Re:The only and most known problem with Orthodoxy
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2004, 12:06:58 PM »
ania,

You are fortunate, then, to be in one of those rare parishes that are diligent in extra-liturgical education...the norm, sadly, is that most knowledge of the Faith comes from the liturgy...belief learned by prayer and all that.
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Offline Strelets

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Re:The only and most known problem with Orthodoxy
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2004, 12:16:52 PM »
This question is best solved by individual parishes.  The way to go about changing things if you want them changed is to become paying members of parishes, propose things at parish meetings, and if there is enough support for it, things will change.

You've hit the nail on the head, Ania.  The problem really isn't too much ethnicity, but that missionary activity is practically nil in too many parishes, and many supposed Orthodox don't contribute time and money to their parishes.  Instead of wondering why the guy next to you is chanting in Greek, ask yourself, "When was the last time I invited a friend or a family member to Liturgy?  Am I performing my duty to spread the Word to my community, or am I waiting for someone else to lead the way?"  I honestly believe the language issues are fading away, much as Lutheran churches gradually morphed into American entities rather than conclaves of Germans and Scandinavians.  The OCA and Antiochian jurisdictions have made significant strides in embracing a distinct American identity.  Certainly there will be stragglers who want to hang on to the old country's habits and language, but you'll notice that those parishes are aging and will eventually find themselves withering from the vine in due time.
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Offline Stavro

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Re:The only and most known problem with Orthodoxy
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2004, 05:14:37 PM »
Peace,
as for language in services, why can't the service be translated to English and prayed in English or make Saturday for Greek and Sunday for English or two services on Sunday on two different altars or so ? I believe the sacrament is perserved in any language, there is not such thing like a HOLY language, in my opinion.

Peace,
Stavro
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Offline Αριστοκλής

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Re:The only and most known problem with Orthodoxy
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2004, 08:12:26 PM »
This argument can be turned right on its head and used against you.  A "convert" Orthodox would never take his new faith for granted because he knows what "wrong-thinking" is and how it truly affects one's faith.  


Yes, perhaps it could be so construed...IF I was arguing, my friend. But I guess one would really have to be either a cradle or a convert Orthodox to understand.

Demetri
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Offline Kyrie Eleison

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Re:The only and most known problem with Orthodoxy
« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2004, 04:04:35 PM »
This is interesting to me. In reading of the American saints, especially, Saint Innocent of Alaska, I think that he was right on in his missionary efforts. "If you want to teach the people, put away those French theological books which you so love and learn Japanese as soon as you enter the country so that the people can worship God in their own language." (Saint Innocent to Saint Nicholas of Japan)

I do think that thisis the only way for converts to be able to experience Orthodoxy in its fullness. If at a later time they want to learn a language and become more aquainted with a Greek or Russian parish then that is all well and good bit for the initial immersion I think that it is best to do so in the language of the people of the land.

Offline Augustine

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Re:The only and most known problem with Orthodoxy
« Reply #12 on: September 02, 2004, 09:58:20 AM »
Not using a language understood by the major part of one's congregation and by any potential converts in the land a Church is dwelling in, betrays a disinterest in the people of that land to some degree.  In some cases, it is excusable (such as the case of a Church which decidedly serves a local immigrant community.)  However, what is the excuse in other cases?

Being "missionary" in an essentially heterodox/neo-pagan society is not an option.  Indeed, it could even be argued that there is a place for "mission" type work even where the faith has been well established.  I am simply amazed at the resistance the translation of liturgics into vernacular is met with, by people who have no NEED to have them used in some tongue indiscernable to most of the youth and converts - they can speak English just as well as anyone else, so it's not like they'd be left in the cold by it.