What Makes Easter So Special?

What Makes Easter So Special?

For this roundtable, Scott the Editor wants us to explain why Easter is more significant than other Christian holidays. In Holy Orthodoxy, Easter is the most basic Christian holiday. That’s because, on Easter, we celebrate the central event in the salvation of this world: the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. And since the Resurrection is so fundamental to the Faith, we actually celebrate it each and every Sunday of the year.

Iconographical Tradition in Byzantium (Vol III, Ch 7)

From Michael Ruse:

It doesn’t come as a surprise that Christians in the 4th-7th c. would — from a mostly Roman and Levantine background of the Byzantine Empire — make mosaics, frescoes, and images to represent important Scriptural messages and beliefs and teachings from Apostolic tradition.  

As Metropolitan Hilarion explains in this chapter, Orthodoxy has passed through a period of iconoclasm (destruction of icons). Likewise, we might be going through a similar kind of iconoclasm of traditions, beliefs and ideas that we thought couldn’t ever be challenged seriously or changed.

There are more than a few sections in the book that cover different topics that survive in Byzantium’s entrancing iconographical tradition: 

1.   The Icons of the 4th-6th c. and Sinai’s Encaustic Icons 

2.   The Canonical Image of Christ, Image Not-Made-By-Hands that is mentioned in the Teaching of Addai, and its connection to the Shroud of Turin 

3.   Iconoclasm and the Veneration of Icons that has received probably most of its inspiration from Islamic mindset. But there are deep theological currents behind the bloody conflict

4.   Decorative Painting and Basic Iconographical Types 

5.   Byzantine Mosaics and Frescoes, 4th-9th c., 9th-14th c. 

6.   Book Miniatures 

Join us all this Saturday at 4:00 and immerse yourself in Orthodoxy’s iconographical tradition; this class, and the next several classes) will be taught by an expert in the field of iconographical tradition.

Early Christian Painting: Frescoes of the Roman Catacombs (Vol III, Ch 6)

From Michael Ruse:

Come and join us this Saturday at 4:00 to learn more about icons. We cannot discuss the veneration of icons in the Orthodox Church without first talking about how some early Christians were not Jewish. If the older Jewish religion forbade making images of human beings, what made images appear more often in human form among early Christians? 

We find out that some scriptural accounts were turned into mosaics, portraits, catacomb paintings, frescoes and ultimately traditional icons in our temples. Icons burst forth as symbols and images of our salvation and humanity “in a tense dialogue with the pagan world and active missionary work among pagans.” This brief chapter will help us understand the larger chapter on the iconographical tradition in Byzantium. It also introduces some important concepts and categories when discussing icons such as: posture, reverse perspective, symbolic, antique, and other typological images.

Liturgical Vestments of the Clergy (Vol III, Ch 5)

From Michael Ruse:

If you are interested in fashion and liturgy, know something about either or know nothing about it at all, then come and join us this Saturday evening at 4:00pm. 

Metropolitan Hilarion explains, “The apostolic Church did not have special vestments for sacred serving … everyday clothing came to be treated as sacred.” How do objects come to be treated as sacred?  

In this chapter, he continues with this kind of question and he discusses the origins of liturgical vestments that became sacred in the Greek and Russian traditions. That may be easy enough to understand. But why would it be inappropriate for the Orthodox today to change their liturgical vestments to everyday clothing in the spirit of the early Church or as other Christian communities do? It is important to know that sacred significance and symbolism of liturgical vestments took root in the early centuries of the Church. 

In the East, we see the phelonion and omophorion become more widespread in liturgy and in icons and mosaics of the saints more than in the West. Although Russian liturgical vestments have a lot of influence from the Byzantine tradition, there were developments – like the sable mitre-caps for patriarchs – that were specifically Russian in adaptation to culture and climate. 

Metropolitan Hilarion discusses these main vestments in more detail: sticharion, orarion, epitrachelion, omophorion, sakkos, turban/mitre, and staff as well as a section about the color scheme of vestments.  

Arrangement of Churches and Church Objects (Vol III, Ch 4)

By Michael Ruse:

Join us this Saturday March 23 and learn more about what makes us so Orthodox when we use liturgical objects and how we arrange space for worship. Each thing and place has a purpose because we are not keeping up antiques.  

It would be good to be able to point out that some form of seating, the cathedra, lighting candles, the nave and the narthex were church objects and arrangements we use today are as earlier Christians did in ancient times. 

Although there are some exceptions like “electric-lightening” candles, air-conditioning, indoor-plumbing, and electricity itself, we seem to worship in much the same way as our ancestors did in the Church. In this Chapter 4, there are a lot of new or familiar vocabulary surrounding liturgical services; and learning those terms will help us become more aware of the significance and history of the things we use, touch, walk or stand by and sit on when we worship. 

Metropolitan Hilarion also helps contrast some distinctions within Orthodox traditions – primarily Greek and Russian – so that we can appreciate some of the differences we have. For instance, some liturgical objects such as eagle rugs and royal gates have imperial origins in Constantinople, while every Orthodox tradition will use a chalice or “drinking vessel” (poterion in Greek) for communion. 

St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s Day

This coming Sunday, March 17, is St Patrick’s Day, and, if you have been cruising social media for ‘Things to Do on St Patrick’s Day’ then you know that there is a lot going on this weekend. You can listen to Irish music and eat Irish food and drink Irish beer and watch Irish dancing. You can wear one of those silly green hats, and you can even get a shamrock tattoo. But I’d like to make a suggestion that isn’t going to show up on YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitter, or Instagram.

You can go to Church.

That’s right. Church. St Patrick is famous for a lot of things, but what was most important to him was connecting people with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For St Patrick, Church was the main place that connection happens, and, since that’s still the case today, if you want to really honor the Apostle to the Irish, the very best way you can do that is by going to Church.

Taxes, Again

Taxes, Again

In this roundtable, Scott wants us to discuss whether religious organizations should be tax-exempt. The idea must be gaining some traction, because Scott’s predecessor at The Hill Country News had us write about this same topic about a year and a half ago.

My views on the subject haven’t changed in the last eighteen months: we live in a representative democracy, and if folks decide that religious organizations should pay taxes, then my congregation will start sending in the required funds. Nevertheless, I think there are a couple of important points that are often overlooked in this discussion.

Silence and Poetry

Silence and Poetry

From time to time, folks will ask me, “Do the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit really speak to us?” And when I assure them that the Most Holy Trinity does, indeed, communicate with us, the next question is always some version of this: “Well, how do you hear the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?”

Listening to the Most Holy Trinity is a skill, and, like any other skill, it can be learned. But there are two dimensions to this particular skill set: If you want to communicate with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the first thing you have to do is learn how to be quiet; the second thing you have to is learn the language of poetry.

What Christmas Means to Me

Editor Scott Coleman wants to know what the Christmas Season means to me. The best way I can express that is by telling you what I’m going to be doing on the morning of Wednesday, December 26.

Like all Orthodox priests, I go to work on Christmas Day, but on the Day After Christmas, I get up while everyone else is still asleep. I go into the kitchen; I fire up the oven and one of the burners on the stove; I pull a cookie sheet and a frying pan out of the cabinets, then I reach into the refrigerator and get a pound of thick-sliced, super-smoked applewood-seasoned bacon, a tube of those ready-made biscuits, and a big tub of butter.