The Not So Eastern Church – Fr. Lawrence Farley

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The Not So Eastern Church

by

Fr. Lawrence Farley

Source:

https://oca.org

https://oca.org/reflections/fr.-lawrence-farley/the-not-so-eastern-church

ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA

I can, I think, count on the fingers of my one hand the number of times I have described myself as an Eastern Orthodox. Usually the preferred self-designation is simply “Orthodox,” but sometimes this provokes confusion, as when I am further asked, “Oh, are you Jewish?” The respondent has clearly heard of Orthodox Jews, and supposes that I must be one of them, though you would think the big pectoral cross around my neck would tip them off somewhat that I was a Christian. On these occasions I am reduced to elaborating more fully, saying that I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian: “You know, like the Russians, or the Greeks?” The respondent’s eyes then glaze over for a moment, since I am neither Russian, nor Greek, but they usually let the matter drop. In these conversations, the adjective “eastern” serves to connect me with a known quantity, such as the Russian Orthodox Church or the Greek Orthodox Church—i.e. the ones on television with the fancy robes and the icons.

There is a reason for not referring to our Church as “the Eastern Orthodox Church”—namely, that we are not in fact eastern. Our own jurisdiction has its membership in the west (i.e. North America), and my own parish is situated on the extreme west coast of that western continent. So, in what sense are we eastern? Only in the historical sense, and long dead history at that. In the first millennium the Church was dispersed throughout the Roman world, living in the west from Britain to Rome and in the east, from Jerusalem to Parthia and beyond. (Yep, Parthia. Like I said: long dead history.) In those far off days, east was east and west was west and never (or rarely) the twain shall meet. The church organized itself into patriarchates, including the famous five of the so-called “Pentarchy”, even though the actual reality never was quite as tidy as all that. In this ancient system, you had Rome leading the west, and Constantinople leading the east. Latin flourished out west, and Greek out east (and later on, Slavic languages in the northern land of the Rus) and, oh yes, Syriac. In those days, the designations of “western church” and “eastern church” meant something, since the faithful who lived in the west didn’t often Continue reading “The Not So Eastern Church – Fr. Lawrence Farley”

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