Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Orientale Lumen XII West

founders chapel USD door
University of San Diego Founder's Chapel Entrance Door


Again this year, Father George Morelli of the Antiochian Orthodox Church and a member of the Ecumenical Council's Faith, Order and Witness Committee arranged for committee members to attend the all-day session of Orientale Lumen West a few Wednesdays ago, on June 25. The website explains history and purpose of the annual event where "Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholics and Roman and pray together, learn from each others' traditions, and become friends together searching for a common goal: 'that they all may be one' in the One Church of Christ." My blog from last year's conference explains some basics: Orientale Lumen XI West. Last year's event started opening my life to the worldview of Eastern Christianity; the three talks we heard this year were exceptionally helpful in affirming some aspects of my own theology I've been thinking about a lot lately as well as attempting to explain to others.

Morning Liturgy

The Eastern Catholic Church, which is under the aegis of Rome, led the opening Eucharist. As I mentioned to my FOW colleagues, I could have gotten to Founder's Chapel at the beginning rather than close to the end in time to receive the antidoron, but intentionally didn't, since it is too painful to be excluded from the Lord's Table and my attending as a known protestant approaching the Table and being refused would have been not cool at all. Orthodox Christians couldn't commune, either...a pastor colleague from the committee told me he always gets "serious hat envy" whenever he attends an orthodox liturgy! For the past few months I've been trying hard to lighten up a lot, so his remark helped as did someone else mentioning my "lightening" attempts were most apt, given the conference is Light of the East.

Feasting and Fasting...

...according to the Byzantine Typicon, by Sister Vassa Larin and a panel discussion formed and filled our morning experience. Typicon is an ordinal liturgical book of examples rather than an obligatory code of laws. Sr. Vassa, the daughter of a priest in the Russian branch of the Byzantine tradition, is completing her PhD under Byzantine expert and Jesuit Father Robert Taft from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, and Fr. Robert was a member of the discussion panel! In this section I'm combining observations from Sr. Vassa's talk and the following discussion.

You can search to find more details on the topic, but we learned there are 6 classes of feasts, from greatest to the 6th class of simple days. I like the way the Typicon denotes which is what with a graphic symbol, and uses "rubric," a word familiar to us in the West to convey instructions in ruby or red type embedded in a liturgical text (in the Lutheran Book of Worship we also had the "pink wash" phenomenon...). I love the way Sr. Vassa explained (my paraphrase) sacraments and liturgy need to be grasped with our senses and integrated into our entire existence so we are drawn wholly into the salvific meaning of the Christ event. Liturgy is meant to be for and by the whole church, for everyone in the church, rather than dis-integrating into rote lifelessness. But that's exactly what I've been trying hard to teach and explain: our worship describes (literally draws and writes, "en-scribes") what we believe about ourselves, about God, and about our relationship to God; in worship we demonstrate who and what we are supposed to be! How we live becomes based upon how we worship as our worship orders our lives. So if we worship money, contemporary culture, the beach, our career or anything else, that's what we become. Once again as I wrote recently (for sure not remotely original to me) "in worhsip we need to re-enact and re-appropriate the meta-narrative of our deliverance from death into life..."

Sr. Vassa described fasts as times of keeping watch, of anticipation and waiting, while feasts are fulfillment; there's penitential kneeling contrasted with eschatological standing. The purpose of the feast is to communicate, to "bring us together around the chalice," poignantly reminding me of the way we in the mostly mainline Protestant West have been working hard at achieving full communion agreements rather than continuing to go for organic unions—examples of organic union include the 4 church bodies that united to form the United Church of Christ, the 2 that came together into the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the 4 that joined and became the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America—one of those, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, originally was constituted as a uniting church...interesting (at least to me)!

"Liturgy confronts our lives with the image of a Savior who gave himself for all..." and we need to approach liturgy with a spirit of mimesis, of imitation that'll lead to a fusion of liturgy and life that creates a lifestyle (but again that's what I've been trying to say!). To quote myself from a while ago, "Worship that reflects and embodies God's Self-revelation and Self-giving in Jesus Christ." Iconography calls us to a wholly-lived life in which we become the icon, the image. Feasting is the iconological opposite of fasting and I'll say a little more about that in the Holy Time section of this blog.

Its name deriving from the same source as the English-language "type" and "typical," the Typicon points to an integrated lifestyle rather than a collection of rubrics. Fr. Robert described change in the Eastern Churches "like watching the grass grow..." but that's exactly like change in the Western Churches! Anthropological theology: the church emerging from anthropology, so in my estimation anthropology, "the word about the human" becomes ecclesiology, "the word about the called-out assembly (of humans)."

The East is legalistic?! But so is the West! A panel member observed in the olden days culture prescribed what we were supposed to wear to church (etc.). In my current spirit of lightening up, I'll tell about arriving at church on a summer Sunday morning a few years ago (I wasn't a worship leader). A friend observed, "this must be Southern California—you're wearing flip-flops to church." And yes, here in Southern California, I've preached in flip-flops as well as attending parties in them. But hasn't almost everyone?


This year we got to have lunch in a faculty dining room and sat in comfortable chairs at a wide table overlooking an expansive canyon. The University of San Diego campus is exceptionally open and gracious, with a feel that reminds me of broadly letterspaced type that tries to convey leisure and a touch of opulence. The posted bill-of-fare didn't allow us a wide choice, but it was very tasty, though they served us their choice of (an okay) pre-planned dessert rather than giving us a choice from the printed menu. Maybe I need to write a few more restaurant reviews? But not at this time about that lunch.

Ravenna Statement

A new agreed statement from the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church has been published (15 November). The commission met from 8-15 October 2007 in Ravenna, Italy, and finalised the text, which is entitled: Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority. Ravenna, the same location as the Ravenna Mosaics. We experienced a pre-recorded DVD of Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia discussing some intricacies of this "Agreed Statement" between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. I love his "Church in Eucharistic Terms" and a reference to the book (I still intend to buy and read) The Church Makes the Eucharist-the Eucharist Makes the Church by Father Paul McPartlan, the Carl J. Professor at the Catholic University of America. (I'm sorry I haven't yet found a link.) Metropolitan Kallistos was born Anglican and currently serves as co-chair of the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue. Eucharistic ecclesiology with koinonia, covenental community as the leitmotif. Patriarchal structure is an "institution of the whole church..." all this makes A Formula of Agreement and Called to Common Mission sound like simplicity itself! I don't know its origins, but a few years ago on the old United Church of Christ forums someone posted why are ecumenical relations like sex between Elephants? Here's why: it's done at a high level; it needs to be done very carefully; it's accompanied by a lot of trumpeting and braying; no one can tell if the elephants are coming or going; no one cares except the elephants! Metropolitan Kallistos also used the buzz-phrase "no bishop - no church; no church - no bishop." Describing the church as an icon of the Trinity reflecting the perichoresis of the Trinity reminded me of Miroslav Volf's (2nd, I believe) volume of free church ecclesiology, After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity. Metropolitan Kallistos mentioned conversations and agreements because of multiple jurisdictions and autocephalus (a word I use neither casually nor lightly, since it's not exactly part of my everyday protestant vocabulary) churches.

Holy Time

I watched just a little of the after-lunch liturgy videos and then Dr. Richard Schneider, a specialist on iconography and a professor at Canada’s York University and at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, provided the day's final plenary that essentially was about time intersecting with eternity—liturgy does not belong to the structure of time, but rather is the breaking-in of eternity into time — I'd express it as integrated chronos and kairos. Again you can search and research, but Eastern Christianity claims 5 cycles of time: Daily Prayer at essentially the same (I think) hours as the Western Church gathers to pray; baptism, marriage, ordination (a whole series from acolyte and reader through the great habit); 8 tones; movable feasts and fixed feasts. Interesting to contrast with Western protestantism's 2 sacraments, though similarly we consider the Eucharist a foretaste of the feast to come and a proleptic realization of the reign of heaven. Ordination in the West is different, too—some church bodies formally ordain deacons and elders, other simply elect or appoint and install them, though ordination to Ministry of Word and Sacrament connects the ordinand to the entire church in every place and time and authorizes them to preside at Table


This year I again found the ornate liturgical style in both real-life real-time and on DVD with its shiny ultra-bling and fantastically vested all-male clergy extremely off-putting, yet I appreciate the appeal to the senses. One of the presenters mentioned Orthodoxy evangelizes by means of attraction, drawing people in with the bells, smells, splendors and visible mystery. I often remind myself it took the passionate, optimistic, activist and wholistic ministry style of the first congregation I was involved with for me even to imagine the Way of Jesus as anything I'd ever consider being involved with, and I suspect that's what it would take for me even now, despite "having a rather accurate knowledge of The Way." However, ultimately it needs to be about a style and expression that enables and supports a person's knowledge of Jesus and journey with the Lord of Life, along with a community of faith. Though I'll still insist on the necessity of vertical and horizontal connectedness, not every style of worship and preaching (or polity!) draws everyone and it's often different at different times of a person's life, as well as different days of the week. For example, for Lord's Day/ Sunday worship I come close to insisting on liturgy and proclamation that clearly reminds me Who God is, Who Jesus is, what the Spirit is doing, that reminds me I am baptized, called and accountable, yet live under a reign of mercy and grace. But on a day or evening during the week, a far less formal, songs and bible-study teaching or discussion format is fun and fine, often healing and nurturing. A couple months ago in my first blog about Brent Bill's Sacred Compass blog, I explained about myself:
Despite a few sojourns elsewhere, I've remained mostly in this Reformation tradition because of its consistent ecumenicity and catholicity, an emphasis on the sacraments and a sacramental worldview, a justice and advocacy oriented public identity and confessional theology (something meaty to sink my brains into—I do not believe I've ever mentioned in a blog that I've actually taught Book of Confessions...); besides, these are the means of grace churches!
These are the means of grace churches but I can learn from all of them, including others in the West and those in the East.


  1. Great post.

    And, BTW, I meme'd you. To find out more, visit


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