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Author Topic: How does one's views of Western culture change when one becomes Orthodox?  (Read 1278 times) Average Rating: 0
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StGeorge
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« on: December 29, 2005, 09:34:09 PM »

For the past several months I have been attending a Ruthenian Catholic parish.  I know that it isn't Orthodox, but it possesses many of the Orthodox traditions.  Ever since the first time I walked into the church I realized that it was a sharp split from Western culture.  It feels completely different, with the exception of some Latinizations in the church.  Ever since this first experience I cannot help, in reading many "Western" books, especially those not directly related to religion, that the Christian East not only has different beliefs but seemingly approaches reality differently than does the West.  It seems that, as I read many Western books, the author is somehow lost or has a very limited understanding of a subject. 

I don't mean to suggest that I know more than these authors, but it just seems that most, though not all, Western writers and authors tend to be less mystical and detached from tone of the Church Fathers. 

Has this been the experience of anyone else who has discovered Orthodoxy?  How does discovering Orthodoxy affect your approach to Western philosophy, literature, art, etc.Huh
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StGeorge
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« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2005, 09:52:22 PM »

* Please don't think that I'm disregarding the important contributions of Western culture.  I simply have noticed that, even among the most brilliant Western thinkers, there's a wanting, to more or less degree, of equanimity and a genuine spiritual depth--the kind of which I am finding in certain works by the Church Fathers, the Orthodox saints, etc. 
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Ebor
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« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2005, 09:58:41 PM »

I mean no disrespect here, but one question might be "what books/authors are you reading?"  and another is "Are they "lost" or is it looking through a different "lens" (either theirs or yours looking at them)?  Also, are they authors that you have read in the past and are taking another look or new ones that you are in some way seeing as lacking without realizing it, maybe? 

Ebor
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« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2005, 03:41:30 PM »

I think the difference here is between a cerebral approach and  that which emanates from the heart that has been purified by the Holy Spirit.  There is a spiritua fragrance found in Orthodox writings (by the Holy Fathers and grace-filled elders) that is sadly lacking in western writing.  It seems to me that you can't enter that other Reality by means of the intellect alone.  I rememer the BBC Singers calling in an Orthodox priest because whenever they sang Russian Liturgical music is lacked integrity and the performance came accross as being very clinica.  Perfect voices, but cerebral instead of from the heart.  The priest told me that it was impossible to improve this, since the Singers did not believe in what they sang. No amount of studying can be compared with experience the grace that abounds in true worship and faith.l
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Eugenio
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« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2005, 04:19:48 PM »

Well, the first thing I "unlearned" was the old saying from my high school Latin class that "Rome fell in 476 A.D." We Orthodox will tell you that "Rome" fell in 1453! (And the Russians will tell you that the "Third Rome" still stands! Smiley Plus, the period that Westerners call the "Dark Ages" (about 400-1100 A.D.) were only Dark in Western Europe. They were not so Dark in Byzantium, Arabia or China!

I guess that from my associations and discussions with Greeks, Greek-Americans, Russians, and Arab Christians that I've learned to look at Western European history, and American history and politics in a different light. I'm a bit more skeptical of the rhetoric (that is so fashionable now) that the U.S. is some sort of God-chosen nation with a divine mission to spread goodness and wonderfullness in the world.

When I watch the news now, I'm at least a little more inclined to speculate on how our country's actions might be perceived by other nations around the world.
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StGeorge
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« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2005, 10:28:50 PM »

Quote
Originally Quoted by Ebor:

I mean no disrespect here, but one question might be "what books/authors are you reading?"  and another is "Are they "lost" or is it looking through a different "lens" (either theirs or yours looking at them)?  Also, are they authors that you have read in the past and are taking another look or new ones that you are in some way seeing as lacking without realizing it, maybe? 


Too many books to recall.  Novels from the Victorian era and beforehand, but also 20th-century works.  Philosophy and history, too.  When I said "lost," I meant that, from my position, they seem not to have a keen awareness of their spiritual sense, although this is not true of all Western authors.  Even though Dietrich von Hildebrand in his work, Transformation in Christ, beautifully lays out the Christian virtues, I cannot help but sense that the spiritual quality is not as high as it could be.  This is the sense I get with many Latin Christian books: they are very fine in logically setting forth Christian beliefs, and oftentimes touch on great truths; but the truths, even if they are charged with energy, always enter the head rather than the heart.  I oftentimes finish reading a Latin Christian book feeling much charged with energy but without real peace or heartfelt possession of the Holy Spirit.  I have noticed this effect in the past, but it is more poignant now than before.  To tell you the truth, this even initially happens with some Orthodox writings, but mostly with proverbial advice on fasting, prayer, etc.  I really liked the conversation of St. Seraphim on the possession of the Holy Spirit. In sum, I suppose that, in reading Orthodox literature, I don't obtain an immediate apprecation of truth, but rather it comes only afterwards, as I dwell on what I have read.  It tends to grow within me over time. 

In short, I think that it's my lens that have changed, therefore allowing me to recognize things that I was only partially aware of in the past. 
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2005, 11:07:06 PM »

I have also experienced what you are speaking of, and I do think that the differences were magnified as time went on (especially with "the Enlightenment" and whatnot)... however, I will say that some of the most enjoyable authors I have read are decidedly "western" ones, but also that the differences are clear (it seems to me anyway) from the beginning. I mean, if you read the treatises on the Priesthood by St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom (from the East), and then you read the treatises on the Priesthood by St. Gregory Dialogist and St. Ambrose (from the West), I think that they are very different (both in tnoe and content) even at that point in history. I don't say that that is good or bad, I just think they are different, which is exactly what one would expect. You can't think they'd grow up in different geographical areas, in different cultures, different languages, different teachers, etc., and somehow come out sounding exactly the same. I am not dismissing the idea that the West speaks less about spiritual matters, or speaks less profoundly... to be quite honest, I don't have much to say about that particular point (I've said enough in the past that I regret! Smiley ).
« Last Edit: December 30, 2005, 11:08:05 PM by Asteriktos » Logged

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