Friday, October 12, 2007

The Beauty of Apostolic Christianity

"Sacramentals should be things of beauty. The soul thrives in an environment of chaste loveliness, harmony, and order. Finely crafted beads invite to prayer. There is no shame in going to God by means of the senses He has given us. The Word became flesh so that we, in our flesh and not in spite of it, might be able to go to God." Don Marco

The beauty of Apostolic Christianity, the liturgy in particular, played a major and crucial role in my move from fundamentalist Protestantism to Orthodox Christianity. The barren intellectualism and severe austerity of fundamentalist Protestant services were bearable, and even vital in forming the basis of my spiritual discipline, but the emphasis on inner holiness, and the resulting stigmatization of any outward show of piety, was an exceptionally repugnant aspect of Calvinism.

Services built around sermons may be intellectually stimulating and instruct much, but they do nothing for inspiring holiness. Indeed, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist should reflect as much as possible, the beauty and glory of Heaven. There, we celebrate with joy, Christ's Passion, and Holy Resurrection.

The words of Prince Vladimir's emissaries after visiting Hagia Sophia in the 10th century come to mind:

"We no longer knew whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendour or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty. Every man, after tasting something sweet, is afterward unwilling to accept that which is bitter, and therefore we cannot dwell longer here."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my more trenchant complaint with Protestantism, perhaps this is something you have noticed as well, is the drive to confine God (and holiness/divinity, in general) to the smallest realm possible. To deny the sainthood, the relics, the altar, and even sacraments in some cases--with the ostensibly noble intent of preserving what is truest and best about God--might inadvertently cause our faith in Him to atrophy. This pietism, I believe, is at heart a fundamentalist instinct (to reduce our worship to the lowest common denominator, so to speak, in order to find the essence which we can all agree is true and thus stand behind united) and--this is still a conjecture, I am not absolutely certain--fundamentalism is a sign of moral degradation in society and its effect on religious belief. For this reason, Orthodoxy--with its combination of traditionalism and theological moderation--is above such afflictions. Idk, maybe my argument makes sense to you, although I know it wasn't very clear? for me they are still rather fuzzy concepts

Mon Jan 12, 04:14:00 p.m. 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*moral degradation in society...'' that is, **the reaction to mdis,,,**, not that fundamentalism is somehow corrupt morally, it is quite the opposite in any religion, but in the wrong way unfortunately...

Mon Jan 12, 04:16:00 p.m. 2009  

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