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August 17, 2011


John Brady

This is a beautiful reflection. Thank you.
There's a significant error in the last paragraph though: It's not the consecrated communion bread that's distributed after the Divine Liturgy, but a separate batch of blessed bread.

Justin Smith

Thanks, John. I think I'll leave it unchanged, though, as a testament to my relative outsider status and to the impressionism that, I admit, dictates what I have to say about Orthodoxy. I don't think this changes my final point about the 'true transubstantiation' that takes place after the service.

Thom Nickels

"Some underlings brought the leftover consecrated bread out to the entrance of the church and the beggars and cripples of Athens dug in like pigeons. This was transubstantiated bread, mind you, supposedly the body of Christ"

In good faith, I have to inform you that in Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches bread is brought out after communion and at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy. It is NOT consecrated bread at all, but it is called holy bread. Big difference. So, that's what you saw. Np priest, Catholic or Orthodox, would just bring out consecrated bread for people to pick at.


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It should probably be mentioned that Alyosha is also making a mistake, although an understandable one. The incorruptible status of a deceased body has long been taken to be a sign of holiness, but it's not a necessary condition to being recognized as a saint. Many accepted saints had their bodies wither and rot like the rest of us.

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The incorruptible status of a deceased body has long been taken to be a sign of holiness


Wasnt the orthodox preference for leavened bread (or the catholic insistence on unleavened wafers) one of the issues on which the schism supposedly turned? (politics yes, but some theological arguments about bread and the holy spirit and so on were foregrounded, IIRC)

arun ezhutachan

The author, not being a theologian or knowledgable about Christianity, made a blunder in thinking that 'consecrated bread' was handed out to poor people in Athens and this meant the Orthodox Church was somehow different from- perhaps, more real, more genuine than- the Latin or Lutheran Sects.

Strangely, he chooses to persist in the error- it feels right to him- though two commentators have drawn his attention to his faux pas.

The irony here is that the Orthodox Church, in this instance, was playing catch-up and adopting practices alien to it so as to conform with 'best practice'- which was Latin & Lutheran because the West had overtaken the East in Liberal Arts & Military Technology.

The distinctive aspect of Orthodox practice is that the bread is a leavened circular loaf bearing a square stamp called 'the Lamb'. This is cut out and used in a similar manner to Latin or Lutheran practice (which is also followed in some 'High' Anglican Churches)

From the philosophical point of view, this 'antidoron' (i.e. the bits left over after the 'Lamb' is cut out) is very interesting because it reflects on two different Aristotelian genealogies with a common Islamic source. However, it would take an essay at least as long as that of the author's to do justice to this theme.

Incidentally, a student of mine from what might be called a relatively noveau riche 'hillbilly' family- their ancestors left Ulster in the early Seventeenth Century and only became well off thanks to a Toyota dealership- recently got married in a small mountain chapel. It was his family tradition. His bride, btw, is of Korean extraction. She and her family were profoundly moved by the sacrality of the location.
There are plenty of crass and materialistic noveau riche people in Kiev or Korea (or my native Kerala come to that!) who would disdain their own ancestral equivalent of this Kentucky chapel, preferring a garish venue with plenty of parking.

We may feel exotic foreigners are different from us. Perhaps they are and I've just never met any. But Love and Death are foreign to no peoples. That's why Philosophy commands a readership. Genuine Philosophy based on Alethia- not gassing on about what one feels sounds profound.

A. Ezhutachan

'I don't think this changes my final point about the 'true transubstantiation' that takes place after the service.'
So yours is an ipseity- a teleological one, which has a 'final point'- only reinforceable by divorcing alterity from alethia.
Thus, 'true substantiation'- a metaousia you have divorced from methexis- is not apophatic, it can't be a mystery, because you are actually 'a self-styled American writer named Winston' who nevertheless publishes books under a name whose scrying stones are stupid and of stone.
This is good writing because what we all want to read is stuff about how like them furriners are from Bizzaro World. They kiss corpses and then dig them up once they smell real bad so as to wash them coz...well, furriners only wash dead people they dig up for the purpose- unless the corpse don't smell bad, in which case they worship it.
In Greece- Athens to be exact- them furriners violate the one universal and fundamental rule of sacrifice- viz. the proper disposal of everything material involved so no residue remains- coz. furriners be so crazy they don't just snog dead people, they casually snack down on the flesh of the resurrected God.
That's 'true transubstantiation' according to you coz- why?- well, it's a stupid and obvious lie, but your own stupid, obvious and therefore incorrigible lie.

The point about Death is that it isn't a lie at all. Worthless books can't be written after it supervenes.
This is a teachable moment for you. One that could even rescue you from the living grave of writing shite.
Ignore it dear man. According to your natal calculus- your eyes are better off as scrying stones, not profited at all by what crying atones.

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