Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Well Said

This, I like:

I remember being taught that the steps of discipline in regards to prayer are as follows: first just saying the prayers, then paying attention to the words that one is praying, then comprehending mentally what one is praying, and then finally, the movement from the head to the heart. I can think of no teaching or text or Saint that has ever said that one needs to feel prayerful.


I am reminded of how some Georgians at my parish related how the Orthodox culture in America is so strange to them because everyone is so self conscious about it.

from Pactum Serva.


The Scylding said...

This brings to mind a saying by another blogger, known as The Kibitzer, who rephrased the common cliche "I'm spiritual but not religious" to "I'm religious, but not spiritual". I really liked that.

orrologion said...

Well, I could tell you many a story of Georgians that could do with a great deal more conscious in their faith - especially since most of them (and others that grew up under Communism) are really rather recent converts to the faith.

That isn't to say there isn't something valuable and different in the Orthodoxy of a convert and a cradle, it's just that the one isn't always as perfect as we would like to believe, perfect as is without need of repentance or struggle of any kind. Besides, my blond haired, blue eyed son is as cradle as any cradle Orthodox - perhaps more than most since I bring him to Church regularly and consciously, like my ethnic, cradle priest says we're all supposed to.

John said...

Orr, no doubt you are correct. I just thought the comment about self-consciously Orthodox American converts had some validity to it. I see it from time to time--not always, but occasionally. And as you say, some of the cradles could stand a little self-consciouness.

Lotar said...


These Georgians were referring in general to their experience in America, not solely converts. The parish we are at is at least half cradle.

I think a lot of the stereotypes about cradle and converts are invented for political reasons.

Anonymous said...

Georgian "converts" ain't the same thing as American converts, orrologion, because the default religion of Georgia is Orthodoxy (thus making virtually everyone culturally Orthodox somehow) whereas the default religion of America is some sort of Protestantism making even the Orthodox around here culturally Protestant.
There is the difference. Growing up in an Orthodox country imbues one, even if not formally Orthodox, with many useful sentiments and attitudes in the event of one's entering the Church, so much as growing in America one doesn't need to be a Protestant to have a predilection and familiarity with Protestantism.

Anonymous said...

Well, Orthodoxy is foreign here. So self consciousness is a kind of survival mechanism. If you are not conscious of it, you may well lose it, like a canteen in a desert.

orrologion said...

I would argue that most new immigrant Georgians (Russians, Romanians, Bulgarians) grew up not in an Orthodox culture but in an atheistic culture. This comes from many a pious immigrant I knew that converted here in the West having grown up without religion of any kind. Cultural history rather than 'religious genetics' was the impetus for them to look at Orthodoxy first in the same way Albanians and Bosnians tended to look at Islam first and Croats and Slovenians looked at Catholicism first. It was a historical thing like me being interested in England and Germany and the Ojibway because my ancestors come from there; it's the same reason I'm not as interested in Poland, Palestine, Spain, Africa and East Asia.

The real factor is whether one is raised in the Church or with influence from the Church. I think we all know a goodly number of 'ethnic Orthodox' that are in fact not Orthodox at all, they are simply of cultures that are/were Orthodox. Culture is no guarantor of Orthodoxy, piety or salvation, though it can be a great help. In fact, most 'ethnic Orthodox' I meet outside of a service - the vast number of such that I meet - are not Orthodox at all. They are Catholic, nothing, Buddhist, etc. They are culturally _________, but not Orthodox. Most of the religious leaders in a recent New York magazine photo shoot of the diversity of NYC religions came from Orthodox forebears! My Greek priest has also been very open about the bifurcation of Greek society - one very pious and Orthodox, the other anything but. They overlap and intertwine live hard up against one another, but they are distinct cultures within the broader culture. i.e., one cannot assume that a given person in an Orthodox country like Greece that never experienced Communism is in fact Orthodox.

This also sidesteps the fact that there are quite a few arguments between ethnic Orthodox regarding who is 'more' or 'really' Orthodox. This points to many of these issues being purely cultural and not about culturally-infused Orthodoxy, and that fact hints at a critique about whether konvertsy are in fact not as Orthodox as 'ethnic Orthodox' and those converts that have gone native (wearing Russian peasant shirts and marching in the Greek Independence Day parade) or whether this, too, is simply a matter of cultural antagonism without a specifically religious component.

Anonymous said...

I am an ethnic Orthodox born during Communism. Having experienced Communism a bit I can say that your assumption that the OC was totally out of the public scene and conciseness is mostly wrong. I distinctly remember that Holy week and Easter services gathered huge crowds even before 1989. I distinctly remember that funeral processions led by the Cross, the banners the ripidia, the icons , the Gospel and priests were still common sight even 1989. So were the Pentecost and Easter processions.
People still went caroling on Christmas eve, even during Communism. Communist official themselves were many times low-key Orthodox believers.
The wayside Crosses were still there even during Communism.
So, my experience is that even during then Orthodoxy was still a visible and, indeed, the most visible religion in my country.
But then, I agree with you: it's about cultural memory rather than religious genetics. But in Georgia, romania, Russia etc this cultural memory is more immediate, an everyday thing, whereas this cannot be said of the West.