Saturday, January 14, 2006

Veneration of the Holy Cross: An Orthodox Apologia

Mark threw a good question my way about the Orthodox practice of venerating the cross, so I've just added a quick post to my blog on the subject.

1 comment:

Peter T Chattaway said...

Father, is it okay if I post a comment here, instead of on your personal blog? If not, I'll copy-and-paste ...

I love "the scandal of specificity". Granted, I do wonder sometimes how much sense it would make to tell an Eskimo that they need to offer a Eucharist based on foods made from plants that don't grow anywhere near their vicinity -- though I'm sure the Church has made allowances of some sort for those situations -- but I always get a kick out of the way we recite Pilate's name as part of the creed. When I first started coming to St. Herman's, I remember telling someone that mentioning Pilate's name in the middle of the creed was a little like mentioning Gordon Campbell's -- he just happened to be the guy in charge in that time and place, and he had no idea he would be remembered for thousands of years based on this single incident. And in the midst of what some might call an abstract theological proclamation, this one absolutely incidental grain of historical detail comes up. I think that's really cool.

As you know, I am a big, big fan of Fiddler on the Roof, and I have always admired Jewish traditions, and indeed one of the appeals of Orthodoxy was its aesthetic and practical resemblance to Judaism. During my first midnight Pascha service -- which also happened to be maybe my fourth or fifth Orthodox service of any sort -- I remember turning to my sister, who was also visiting, and saying, "This is just like Fiddler on the Roof!" And every time I see the priests kiss those mini-icons on the iconostasis, I think of the mezuzot on Jewish doorposts.

In fact, I have enjoyed seeing how a number of life-of-Jesus movies have emphasized Jesus' own Jewishness by showing him venerating the scriptures or the mezuzot, and this is a point that came up in my interview with Fr. Thomas Hopko fifteen months ago. As I said to him:

Your remark about the Jewish parallels reminds me, a couple months ago I saw the Campus Crusade Jesus film for the first time in a long, long time, and when Jesus reads from the scriptures in the synagogue, at the end of that scene, he rolls up the scripture and kisses it -- venerates it, you could say -- and when I saw that, I wondered if the evangelicals who made this film, who wanted to be as authentic to the Jewish culture of that time as possible and showed Jesus himself doing that, ever asked themselves, "When did we stop doing that?"

Of all the hurdles I have had to overcome, and am still overcoming, in my journey to Orthodoxy, venerating the Gospel or the cross has definitely not been one of them.

For whatever that's worth.