Orthodox Paradox II: Not Actually Black & White

Russian orthodox cathedral

I’ve introduced this topic with grumblings mostly on the semantics of how our parish worships, specifically length of service and singing scripture readings instead of speaking them. I’m going to continue doing that same thing here. I will make conclusions and give explanations as to why it is so important a little later. Please keep in mind that I am speaking in the context of my parish unless otherwise noted.

Why do we do things the way we do? There have thus far been two ways of looking it, and I can boil it down rather simply. Either change things to suit you and risk opening up the possiblity of endless change, or never change anything and do not allow for that possibility. The Protestants ultimately came to be because someone changed one thing that was undoubtedly a very valid point. In doing so, however, the line was pushed and has never been reestablished, which explains why there is such a huge difference between Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants.

I disagree with this line of thought; it is not actually black and white. First I will explain why it shouldn’t be, and then I will explain how it actually isn’t.

It shouldn’t be black and white

I think you can make this argument with just about any subject. Let’s take the death penalty. I can make an argument that it shouldn’t be a black and white matter that anyone who murders should be killed by the law, just as I can make an argument that there should be a definite verdict with no grey area if anyone murders someone.

If it’s not black and white, then who gets to decide when it isn’t? If it was black and white, we would not face this problem.

If it is black and white, then how do we deal with motives or the mental health of the perpetrator? If it was not black and white, we would not face this problem.

Let’s use this same logic with change in the church. If we hold true that nothing should ever change, then how do we deal with social changes in the people that go to the church and the world that the church exists in? If we hold true that we should adjust accordingly, then who decides which lines we can cross and which ones we can’t?

If you’re confused, good. I wanted to make that point to make this one: it is neither black and white, nor a gray area, at least in the sense we are used to thinking of them. So what that means is there are different levels of black and white in the church, and I believe we refer to them as “big T tradition” and “small t tradition”.

Big T encompasses things like doctrine, creed, theology, and other crucial components that make up the foundation of the church. Small t would then have to be everything else. I’m talking about things that vary between Orthodox churches. For instance, our service is entirely in English. The first service was probably in Greek or something (I’ve got very limited knowledge about anything except web development), so why did they let them change the language of the service? That’s a huge change!

My point is that “big T tradition” should be black and white, but the same should not necessarily apply to “small T Tradition” – the area in which my problems lie.

It actually isn’t (at some parishes)

I hit on this when I talked about the Orthodox liturgy being translated into multiple languages, as well as my first post on this subject when I compared my parish to others in the same deanery. We can change things to suit us without becoming Protestant, as long as we change small t traditions. We actually do this all the time.

When we say that all chatecumens must depart, we don’t really make them leave the building. To me, that’s enough said. Unfortunately, that’s about where we stop at St. John’s. Other parishes obviously carry out their liturgies in a much different manner than we do. What’s so different about their services? Small t traditions at their parishes are not black and white.

At my parish, too many of the small t’s are.

My first post on this subject prompted a response that is not listed publicly in the comments (due to annonimity reasons) with many interesting points. Apparently I am not the only one who feels this way, according to this person. There are many others, but I do not know exactly who. Also, and this is great news to me, you actually are supposed to feel uplifted after a service, at least in some form or another. That may be completely obvious to some of you, but I’ve been letting myself become brainwashed to the fact that the service is entirely for God and it doesn’t matter if we feel anything or not.

Wrong. The service is entirely for God, but in worshipping Him we will naturally get something out of it every time. If not, there’s something wrong with how we’re worshipping Him.

Part III: Conclusion to come…

The Gimcracker

Hi, I'm a person who blogs on the Internet and does not have a Facebook or Twitter account. It's like I accepted all new technology up to and including blogging, but then I rejected anything that came along after that. I am Social Media Amish.