Sunday, February 16, 2014

A barrier to understanding

A couple of days ago I put a picture of the relics of the Roman priest-martyr Valentine on my Facebook page.  I was surprised by the reaction.  An argument began between my Orthodox friends and my Protestant friends. They seemed to be talking past one another.  Each completely misunderstanding what the other was saying.  The Protestants accusing the Orthodox of clericalism and idolatry and the Orthodox accusing the Protestants of denying the resurrection. But underlying all of those specific disagreements is, I think, a greater and more fundamental issue: 

The immanence of the eschaton.   Orthodox believe it.  Protestants don't.  Without that basic belief nothing Orthodox do or say makes sense to Protestants.  Veneration of saints, the real presence of Jesus in the chalice, the blessings of water, candles, fruit, etc., all depend on the real (e.g. real) overlapping of the Kingdom of God with our everyday lives.  During the Divine Liturgy when the Orthodox say we remember the second coming of the Lord we can only say it because in God, where we are, time is meaningless.  It is just a temporary state, at the most.  But the things of the Church, because the Church is in God, are timeless.  Jesus dying on Calvary was the appearance in time of something that always happens, because Jesus was slain before there was time.  Likewise, the relics of saints are venerated because they are already resurrected, and Jesus is present in the Chalice because he is always being sacrificed, and water can be Holy because Jesus is baptized.  The eschaton is present and barely hidden, like a table top under a thin layer of dust.  Just wipe away some of that dust and we see much more than a table, we see the fire of God.

1 comment:

GretchenJoanna said...

I love the way you have explained this Orthodox way of seeing - which of course I am learning to have, but I'm not too good at articulating it. Thanks so much! I may link back to this post of yours eventually.