October 25, 2014

Christmas Too Commercialized? Bah! Humbug!

Source: Koinonia

A sermon by Fr. Gregory Jenson.

From both the left and the right then, we hear attacks of the contemporary American celebration of Christmas. Every year about this time you can be certain that someone—and not necessarily a Christian—will write an essay lamenting the secularization or the commercialization of Christmas. And for the last several years I have dutiful read these woeful litanies about how we have lost the true meaning of Christmas.

Typically Christians on the cultural and political right complain about how Christmas has become secularized. These individuals are offended when they hear “Happy Holidays!” rather than “Merry Christmas!” in the stores and malls where they are shopping.

Just as predictably, Christians on the political and cultural left will take others to task for the commercialization of Christmas. In tones as woeful and self-righteous as their opposite numbers on the right, they will express their indignation that Christmas has become about buying useless gifts and consuming too much of the earth’s resources.

To be fair, there is more than a little truth to what is said. But then, to be fair, there is more than a little truth to be found in the secular and commercial rituals that have come to surround how we celebration Christmas.

Something Crass About Christmas

Theologically there is something crass about Christmas. In the best sense of the word, the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity is vulgar. In Jesus Christ, the “creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible,” becomes a small child. Whatever might have been Mary and Joseph’s economic and social status it paled beyond words relative to the glory Christ has as God Son.
And yet He who “did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,”

…made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:6-11).

To the powerful of this world, to the sleek and the strong, to the wealthy and the well-born, to those who imagine themselves wise according to the wisdom of this world, the Incarnation is simply in bad taste. At the risk of offending unnecessarily, looked at from the angle of those who imagine themselves to be someone important, Jesus and His followers are just, well, white trash.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD” (1 Corinthians 1:26-30).

The Good News that God in Jesus Christ loves and forgives us and that He has joined Himself to each of us is entrusted to those who are weak and despised by those who in their own minds are strong and wise.

A Secularized Christmas — More Than Meets The Eye

“But,” you ask, “what about the secularization and commercialization of Christmas?”

For all that is lacking in our culture’s celebration of Christmas, it points beyond itself to something greater, more sublime, something more angelical and even divine. And it must be so because for their failings our celebrations are so human.

We be wise, discerning, generous and, above all merciful in our criticism of how our culture keeps Christmas. Above all else there must not be any hint or suggestion of condemnation because “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). What I cannot lose sight of in my critique is that what Christmas celebrates above all that “faithful saying … worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).

From where I sit, the problem with the commercialization of Christmas is not that we are prodigal in our gift giving but miserly. It isn’t that we consume too much but too little. Because you see, or so it seems to me, we give each other every manner of gift except the gift of ourselves in love, compassion, and chastity. And isn’t that some of us eat too much Christmas roast or drink too much beer but that too few of us feast on the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.

We should be as extravagant as we can in our gift giving, in our eating and drinking because it is in cheerful generosity that we most closely resemble the God Who on Christmas Day is born in poverty and obscurity for us and for our salvation.

God is extravagant, even wasteful, in His love for mankind. There is no sin He does not forgive, there is no sinner He does not bless “for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” commanding us to do likewise telling His disciples “be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (see Matthew 5:45, 48).

So if people eat and drink too much at their Christmas dinner how can we who are Christians fail to feel at least some responsibility for this?

Abstinence and Restraint Might Hide A Greater Failing

Our fault isn’t that we haven’t preached abstinence or self-restraint—we have and should continue to do so—but that we have failed to proclaim the Gospel. Are we really so naïve that we are surprised that those who don’t know Christ or live according to the Gospel eat too much and drink too much when all they is “bread that doesn’t satisfy” (see Isaiah 55:2) rather than the Bread which has come down from Heaven, the Holy Eucharist (John 6:41-58)?

If Christmas has become secular, a mere commercial event, a celebration of materialism and conspicuous consumption, it is because Christians have withdrawn from the Public Square into our churches, our families and our increasingly narrowly defined private concerns. If the only songs we hear in the malls and stores are “White Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Blue Christmas,” it’s because we “who mystically represent the cherubim” and our called “to sing the thrice-holy hymn” of the seraphim have failed to sing for people to hear.

And yet, even the most secular and materialistic among us is created in the image of the God. It is incumbent upon those who have been given the gift of faith to see that image in our neighbor and hear the frustrated longing for God that grips them and to do so not just at Christmas but every day.

Yes, I am a fan of secular, commercialized Christmas. Not because I don’t believe in God but because I do. And because these celebrations remind me of how inadequate are my own attempts to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. You see it isn’t that “they” do it poorly and “I” do it well. It is rather that God in Jesus Christ has done it “all on behalf of all for all.”

In one of the Church’s hymns for the Nativity, we are told that, on that first Christmas, humanity offered a Virgin, the earth a cave, the shepherd’s a song and that together they welcomed wise men who followed a star.

So by all means, let our Christmas celebrations be as beautiful and dignified as we can make them; but let them also joyful and merry. And if my neighbor fails to keep Christmas as I think he should, let me open my heart and my home to him in imitation of the God Who opens Heaven to me.

Fr. Gregory Jensen edits the Koinonia blog (“An Orthodox priest’s thoughts on this and that. Mostly that but a little of this”).

Comments

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    Thanks for posting my sermon!

    Merry Christmas and a Prosperous and Happy New Year to us all!

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    Luc le Gascon says:

    “Christ est né ! Glorifions-Le !” (Christ is born! Glorify Him! – in French)

    “Merci Père” for your sermon. It will help me tone down my criticism towards our secularized version of the Christmas season.

    You wrote the following lines:

    “If the only songs we hear in the malls and stores are “White Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Blue Christmas,” it’s because we “who mystically represent the cherubim” and our called “to sing the thrice-holy hymn” of the seraphim have failed to sing for people to hear.”

    There are certainly ways to help the people living in a secularized neighbourhood – where an orthodox church or group exists – hear and enjoy our beautiful trinitarian songs inspired by the Nativity. One that comes to mind is the following: My parish, which is situated in a very secularized borough up here in Montreal (the people’s representative in our Quebec Legislature is a avowed socialist) is situated next to a subway station. Wouldn’t it be great if next December our parish choir could receive permission from the transport authority to sing orthodox songs inside (in French, English, Russian, Greek, Romanian, etc.)?

    I’m sure other orthodox choirs in Canada and in the US could do the same if they are situated close enough to any kind of station (ubway, train, bus station). If none, why not – like you mentionned, dear Fr. – try with a big mall?

    May many of our neighbours next December hear more than just “White Christmas” and the like. Let them hear something that is even sang in Heaven!

    -Love in XC
    Luc

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, I noticed modern christians don’t built the great churches as they did in the past. Think Hagia Sophia was the largest church I believe for over 5 centuries or so. Both the Byzantines and the Roman Catholics in the west built huge churches and so did the Russians later on as well. Just saying that people in the modern world may not think of the grander of God and Christ as pre-modern Europeans did with their faulrs. Maybe, that why people complain about how Christmas is celebrated.

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    Johna says:

    It seems that there is a growing tendency among Orthodox Christians in America to justify everything and anything just because it’s American (pointing to the Protestants and Catholics here is, of course, pointless, since that’s what they normally do for centuries). This is simply ridiculous text which reveals that the Father simply did not get the point. He can continue to be a fan of consumerist mentality (it’s hard to get rid of idols, isn’t is?), but there is no reason to spread that madness across the web.

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      Johna,

      Christ is born!

      Forgive me I must not have been clear.

      I’m sorry that you find the text ridiculous but it is not clear from you own brief comment why you think so. It would be helpful to me if you could explain how I am wrong.

      As I see it, my willingness to see a longing for God in the commercialism and secularism is not at all ridiculous. Nor do I think it madness to suggest that the best response to a fallen world is a renewed commitment to evangelism rooted in personal holiness. Or at least this ought not to be madness to a Christian.

      As I said above, there is some merit to the criticisms of the commercialization and secularization of Christmas. But our criticisms of the cultural celebrations of Christmas shouldn’t blind us to the fact that such celebrations embody a desire for Christ. The inability, and in some cases unwillingness, of Christians to see this is fatal. I cannot evangelize what I do not know, I cannot know what I do not love and I cannot love that in which I see no goodness, truth, beauty or justice.

      More to the point, and here I seem to have failed even more, what the secularization and commercialization of Christmas reveals is our own evangelical shortcomings as Orthodox Christians. In my view the failure here is not a marketing failure but a vocational failure. As Luc suggests, there is something to be said for singing Orthodox Christmas hymns in public venues. And I agree with Cynthia that there is much to recommend in the building of large church buildings as a testimony to the Gospel.

      BUT important as these and other things are, they will not do much to bring people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ unless our witness is the fruit of personal holiness. If we are not personally and communally committed to becoming saints there is very little we can hope to accomplish. If the celebration of Christ’s Nativity has become merely an excuse for eating and drinking ought not to look first to our own hearts and the credibility of our own witness?

      It is easy complain that Americans are materialistic and secular in our celebration of Christmas. But, as I said above, such a complaint can easily blind me to the truth that no matter how I celebrate Christ’s Nativity I fall far short of the mystery I celebrate. Added to this–and I’m not suggestion you have done so–too many of us are willing to profit from that commercialism and secularism we condemn. Doing so is not only hypocritical it does not bring my neighbor to Christ.

      Yes, there are excesses that need to be corrected but there are also blessings to be found in American culture; a chief blessing is our ability to post our views here. I am unashamed to say this and I am thankful to God that I am an America. To be sure my love of America needs to be a chaste love but love is not for the Christian an option. It is our life and our hope.

      Again, forgive me if I wasn’t clear in my original post.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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        Michael Bauman says:

        Father, I think I understand your point and to some extent agree with it the statement that our cultural celebrations of Christimas express a ghostly longing for Christ. I agree even more that for we Orthodox to evagelize America we have to be committed to both personal holiness AND a true and abiding love for this country and our culture (boy do we fall short there). That being said, it does not necessary follow that embracing the manner in which Christmas is celebrated reflects either personal holiness or a love for America.

        My Nativity experience this year led me to the conclusion that the manner in which the Orthodox Church approaches the Nativity and the manner in which the our culture approaches it are not really all that compatible. The key is that the Church teaches us, out of personal holiness, to prepare for His coming by fasting, repentance and almsgiving. Once He has come forth–then we celebrate with Christ: He is Born-Glorify Him!. Christmas is just beginning. All the while never forgetting the slaughter of the innocents and the flight into Egypt.

        I don’t know why I had never seen the difference before, but I had not. For next year I hope to enter into the Church’s understanding of the Nativity more deeply, but that has to be conscious and planned and it means much less participation in the pre-Nativity celebrations of our culture. I further hope to do this without any condenscension toward what is the predominant approach–enjoying the genuine joy of others while recognizing how far I am from the source of that joy.

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          Michael,

          Christ is born!

          Thank you for your thoughtful comment and my God bless your resolve for a more ascetical preparation for Christmas!

          I agree with you that embracing our culture’s celebrates Christmas does not reflect “either personal holiness or a love for America” but the rejection of our culture doesn’t either. Neither response is necessarily the response off a holy love.

          It is to offer a corrective to the latter response, of the quick and easy rejection typical of sectarianism, that partly inspired this sermon. As I said above, there is much to criticize in how our culture celebrates Christmas.

          But even though there is much which is wrong in how American’s celebrate Christmas, there is also something right about it. There is a generosity of spirit there as well as a certain childlike innocence. The challenge is not simply in seeing what is wrong but what is right in how our culture celebrates the Nativity. Unfortunately the latter is almost wholly lacking among Orthodox commentators.

          You used a lovely phrase in your post, the “ghostly longing” for Christ in our culture, that helps me clarify my own thinking here.

          I would tweak the phrase a bit and say that what is ghostly in American culture is not the longing for Christ but our memory of Him. Flannery O’Connor’s description of the South as “Christ haunted” is also true of America (and of Western culture more broadly). The pathos (and so at times the bathos) of our culture arises out of the convergence of O’Connor’s observation with what St Justin Martyr calls the seminal presence of Christ (logos spermatikos–the seminal presence of the Word of God).

          As I have reflected on St Justin, I have come to realize that my longing for Christ is constitutive of both human nature AND personal identity. I can be neither human nor myself save that I desire (i.e., love) Christ. The sorrow of Christmas in our culture is that it in response to Justin’s ontological and existential longing it offers only the faint–and terrifying–memory of Christ.

          Though not referring to Christmas, I think O’Connor nevertheless illumines of us the pathos and bathos of how our culture celebrates Christmas. She also helps me at least understand how we relate to our culture’s Christian foundation. In a 1960 lecture, “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction,” she says

          Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one. To be able to recognize a freak, you have to have some conception of the whole man, and in the South the general conception of man is still, in the main, theological. That is a large statement, and it is dangerous to make it, for almost anything you say about Southern belief can be denied in the next breath with equal propriety. But approaching the subject from the standpoint of the writer, I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted. The Southerner, who isn’t convinced of it, is very much afraid that he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God. Ghosts can be very fierce and instructive. They cast strange shadows, particularly in our literature. In any case, it is when the freak can be sensed as a figure for our essential displacement that he attains some depth in literature.

          For all our aggressive secularism, crash consumerism, and let’s just say it, our increasing freakishness I remain fundamentally hopeful for our culture. How we celebrate Christmas, our cultural debate over the definition of marriage, and any number of other issues are for me not good things in themselves but seen with the eyes of faith they are the hopeful evidence of our cultural displacement. They are the symptoms that contain within themselves the cure for the disease and dis-ease of our culture.

          This displacement and the dis-ease that comes with it, however, are also personal and I fool myself if I imagine that as an Orthodox Christian I an exempt; I am still an American and eve if I were not, I am still a sinful human being. This should be stronger. I am a fool if I think I am exempt. I’m not and this is why the ascetical response to which you refer Michael is absolutely necessary both personally AND as the foundation of the Church’s evangelical ministry.

          What I’m calling into question in this sermon is not cultural shortcomings or the necessity of asceticism but the cheap grace of cultural criticism which I all too often seek out as a substitute for personal holiness. I would offer as evidence of this ease with which–from both the left and the right–Orthodox Christians voice cultural criticism without any attempt to see past the freakishness to the beauty it conceals.

          A commitment to the truth requires not simply that we point out the darkness of sin but illumine it with the light of the Gospel. This latter work is wholly positive because it brings to the fore the good, the true, the beautiful and the just that sin would obscure.

          Glorify Him!

          +FrG

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            Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

            This response is so good that it merits an essay by itself.

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              Chrys says:

              Agreed. It also expresses a dynamic that I find in my more effective (and unfortunately too rare) moments as a parent. It is easy to criticize, but rarely effective – if for no other reason than that there are myriad ways of doing something incorrectly. It is much more effective and productive to show what is right. (Kind of like shooting an arrow: there are many, many ways to go wrong and only one that hits the bullseye.) St. Silouan expressed it this truth much more profoundly in his discussion with a zealous missionary. After discussing the missionary’s criticisms and then asking about certain aspects of the faith among the people he was evangelizing, St. Silouan offered some important guidance. He said:

              “If you condemn their faith, they will not listen to you . . . But if you confirm what they were doing well . . . and then gently point out their mistakes and show them what they ought to amend, then they would listen to you, and the Lord would rejoice over them. And this way by God’s mercy we shall all find salvation . . . God is love, and therefore the preaching of His word must always proceed from love. Then both preacher and listener will profit. But if you do nothing but condemn, the soul of the people will not heed you and no good will come of it.” (Saint Silouan, the Athonite, pp. 64-65)

              This approach – abjuring criticism, and embracing the way of humility, gratitude and love – was consistently emphasized by St. Siluoan as well as by Elder Porphyrios and so many other modern elders when discussing how we are to deal with others. These elders insist on this approach not only because it is more effective, not only because it is necessary for us if we are to remain in the Spirit, but also because – consistent with that Spirit – it embodies the approach of Jesus. His strongest criticism was offered not to the worst in society (though there was so very much to condemn), but to the Pharisees, whose righteousness was self-serving – and which righteousness we are required to surpass (Matt 5:20).

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                Chrys,

                YES!

                Our criticisms must be gentle, moderate and based in love.

                BUT merely pointing out error isn’t loving and it is foolish to make such an equation. A loving criticism, as St Silouan suggests in the passage you quote above, see what is good, true, beautiful or just in the other person’s life or faith. To merely point out error and say, as some do, “The most loving thing I can do is tell you the truth,” is at best self-deceiving and at worst self-serving.

                The moral and pastoral problem here isn’t, so I’m clear, with pointing out error. Rather it is the reduction of the truth of the other person or his situation to merely error.

                It maybe true that I am ugly and my mother dresses me funny but it isn’t the whole truth of my life. Yes I’m ugly, but I am still created in God’s image and so bear within myself the traces of the divine glory in whose presence the angels weep for joy. And yes, it is true that the clothes my mother chooses for me are mismatched and ill-fitting. But they are still her gift to me and as such reflect–however poorly–something of God’s love for me and so my incomprehensible worth and dignity in His eyes if not in my neighbor’s (or even my mother’s!).

                Again, none of this denies the myriad errors in my life. Much less does any of this deny my sinfulness. It is however to deny that in whatever form it takes human sinfulness has the last word in the face of divine grace. If anything, the fact that God’s grace triumphs over my sinfulness makes the latter more tragic.

                Forgive me but it seems to me that St Silouan’s word is especially important for American Orthodoxy with our tendency to hold to a sectarian rather than a catholic vision of the Church and the Christian life.

                +FrG

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                  Chrys says:

                  Amen. I appreciate especially your point about the need to properly acknowledge, appreciate and be grateful for what God has done and is doing – even in the midst of our messes. Your penultimate comment expresses this well and makes the reason for it especially clear:

                  Again, none of this denies the myriad errors in my life. Much less does any of this deny my sinfulness. It is however to deny that in whatever form it takes human sinfulness has the last word in the face of divine grace. If anything, the fact that God’s grace triumphs over my sinfulness makes the latter more tragic.

                  This hits at a personal level – and I am very grateful for the insight. In most of my day-to-day life, I tend to reflexively focus on what is wrong, where I am failing. To do so without giving proper due to God’s grace is to give my sinfulness “the last word in the face of divine grace.” It is an expression of both pernicious ego-centrism and unconscionable ingratitude and thus quite the opposite of the exercise in humility that I have flattered myself in thinking it was. (Unfortunately, how we are with ourselves is also how we are with others – and when I am this way with others it can not remotely be justified as an expression of humility; it just comes across as a harsh ingratitude, at best, and a relentless perfectionism at worst.)
                  Fortunately, you comments also indicate the way to true humility, which gives proper priority to grace and thus, as a consequence, helps us to see our (myriad) failings as the affront of ingratitude that they are. As Elder Joseph points out – we are indeed mud, and we have made a muddy mess of that, but we are also mud imbued with the breath of God. We must honor both (mud and breath) – as both are the truly good gifts of God – to acquire the healthy humility needed to become “all fire” (if you’ll pardon the mixed reference). Thank you for the important – and, for me, very much needed – amplification of your point.

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              Thank you Father for your encouraging words!

              Let me see what I can manage in the next day or so.

              FrG

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, a little off topic, the Byzantines sang hymns in the Hippodrome and the Hippodrome is where a very secular activity which is the chariot races were. Good women were not supposed to go to chariot races. The Byzantines also mixed the secular and the religious.

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    Chrys says:

    I think that Father’s article has caught something that is important and too often overlooked — to our detriment. Christ condemned very few; when He did, it was primarily religious leaders who were using God to serve their own purposes. (Ironically, we often like to quote that He came not to condemn but to save when applying it to ourselves, but seem to forget it when applying it to others.) Yet He was – shockingly to many – appreciative and grateful for any hint of real openness to God, real humility before God, real love for God. I have heard it said that Christ was like us in all things save ingratitude. I have become more convinced of the wisdom and truth of this comment as I get older. Here Father seems to have applied much the same attitude to our contemporaries (aka, our neighbors).

    “Commercialization” is indeed an easy target for the “high minded” of every stripe and ideal, because it more than smacks of self-indulgence and crass excess, while exhibiting little of the apparent ideals behind the celebration. (Which “ideals” one elevates depends – as Father notes – on the strain of idealist who holds them.) As something of a hypocrite on this score (I both embrace the ideal, yet indulge the “commercial” more than I would like), I find myself in the curious spot of now being able to condemn something in BOTH aspects of my behavior. For if the judgment of the commercial aspect is easy to criticize (assuming that the extravagance we see is merely self-indulgence rather than genuine generosity ), yet the “principled” side can be even more insidiously self-indulgent: we elevate ourselves by denigrating the apparent (and it must be noted that it is only “apparent” since I can see into no one’s heart) “vulgarity” of others.

    Father provides an important corrective: we would do better to appreciate that something truly vital – the incarnation of Christ – is indeed being celebrated, however consciously it may or may not be done. (As if I am ever FULLY conscious of anything.) Those of us who incline to the maximalist must be careful not to demand a certain level of purity and perfection before offering appreciation. (This trend recurs often in history – and in my own history – producing the unhappy irony that one demands a level of attainment in others that were it to be realized would necessarily exclude the person making the demand. Or, as an old professor put it: if you find the perfect parish, don’t joint it – you’ll ruin it.)

    So then, if there is a critical judgement to be made, then, I could better apply it to myself: knowing better, I still do not glorify Him as I ought; having received so much, that I still give such meager praise. If we are to be judged by the measure that we use toward others, then a more gentle and appreciative spirit in keeping with the Spirit of Christ is a good place to start.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Chrys, you are expressing something I found elucidated best (so far) in David Bentley Hart’s “Atheist Delusions.” He examines in great detail the success of the early Christians and concludes that their good works appealed to the conscience of the pagan culture surrounding them and affected the tectonic shift from pagan antiquity to classical Christian culture. This is oversimplified a bit, but you have to question if the Edict of Milan under Constantine would have held if the moral ground was not tilled first in those first three centuries of persecution.

      In the same way, as I read you and Fr. Gregory, you are advocating the same kind of enterprise, although in this case a restoration and renewal. Tilling the ground may unearth some pearls that restore the rationale to the old habits that have since become skewed. Merely criticizing them wont.

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    Geo Michalopulos says:

    Fr, a very thought-provoking sermon. I must admit that I had to read it twice to understand the nuances but having done so, I find myself agreeing with you to a very great extent. For me the take-away line is that we Orthodox have been too miserly in our “giving.” We definately don’t want to share what we have.

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    Chrys says:

    Like George, I had to read this a few times. My comments above, reflect my own “take away” – those particular notes which highlighted issues in which I felt particular conviction. Yet George has rightly noted what seems to me the dominant theme. At the risk of overstatement, Father’s sermon could be seen as a kind of a riff on St. Seraphim’s famous quote that if we acquired the spirit of peace, thousands around us will be saved. Elder Porphyrios, along the same lines, offered direction on one or two occasions toward the same end: the healing and redemption of the children would come from growth in holiness by the parents. While both expressed an important truth in a very uplifting manner, there is a very high calling – and demand – in both. As such, both comments could be “inverted”: the lack or need around us could also reflect our own lack of holiness. (i.e., if thousands around us are not saved, if the children are wounded rather than healed, what does that imply about us?)
    In the same way, Father indicates that the celebration of the Gift needs to be more fully embraced – both for our own salvation and of the neighbor (whose “impoverishment” may well reflect something about the tepid state of our actual spiritual “vitality”).

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, interesting side note here: I find out from one of the ancient history blogs that work on Christmas was not banned until Justinian. It defintely sounds like something Justnian would do.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, an interesting study shows that Ancient Rome had more wealther at the top 5 percent than Byzantium which was concernated at the top 1 percent. A lot of Orthodox are Democratics and spend their time about inequality but the wealthiest orthodox society in socetiy had a greater ineqaulity than Ancient Rome. This is related to George’s comments here about Orthodox not giving that much and the fact a lot of Orthodox are Democratics in the US since they opposed the upper classes getting tax breaks and they believe that old Byzantium was socalists.

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    alexis says:

    Good point, Father. You have definitely challenged us to be reborn, more like Christ, and to evangelize for His Glory. Very nice.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, getting back to Hagia Sophia here is one of my usual thoughts. I look at some pictures and it shown some of the ruins of the Theodosian II Hagia Sophia which was burn down in the Nika Riot. In its place the current church arose. But think that the second church was destroyed by a mob burning down half a city at least and an emperor who had to killed thousands to stay in power. Anyway, it makes me think of God’s mercy in the darkest of hours since a new church arose out of the ruins of the old. Strange thoughts.

Care to comment?

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