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Hallo again to all.

It's become common for Anglicans who are not comfortable with the contemporary church to refer to themselves as 'orthodox'. That venerable word when applied to Christians has several meanings in the dictionary, but the generally accepted meaning of that word seems to be 'Of or relating to any of the churches or rites of the Eastern Orthodox Church'.

Jesus, an orthodox imageWe've attended services at Eastern Orthodox churches (which didn't use the word Eastern in describing themselves) and didn't get a sense that there was much similarity between the newly-named Orthodox Anglican and the [Eastern] Orthodox. We turned to the library to read and learn more about the [Eastern] Orthodox.

Our Greek is a little rusty, so we were glad to find an English translation of The Divine Liturgy of our father among the saints John Chrysostom.* Its introduction begins with this quote from Archbishop Gregorios:

'The holy Liturgy is the cornerstone on which our Church depends and continues its mission throughout the world.'

and then goes on to note that

The Liturgy, then, must be at the heart of the life of the Church, of each Parish, of each Community. The holy Liturgy is not simply one of the activities of a parish, it is the reason for its existence. ... The mission of Orthodox Christians is to proclaim God's Kingdom, and this is done above all by the celebration of the holy Liturgy. Through the celebration of the Liturgy Christ and his love for mankind are made present in the world. This celebration is the common task of all the members of the People of God.

It seems to us that the usual intended meaning of the phrase 'Orthodox Anglican' is focused more on Biblical literalism than on the Tradition of Orthodoxy.

We read the entire book, fascinated. We're confident that the liturgy written down in this book has been properly preserved from the earliest days of the Christian church, probably predating scripture by a century. In the very beginning, as we understand it, the goal of the church was to preserve what believers had been taught by the Twelve, to memorize the liturgy and preserve and protect it for the future. But Liturgy -- Λειτ-ουργία, the work of the people of God,

is not a 'spectator sport' in which the Priest, Deacon, Servers and Singers are the players and the congregation the audience or viewers. ... Together we proclaim our Faith, together we call on God as 'Our Father'. We do not come to the Liturgy as isolated individuals; we are there as ... the members of the Body of Christ.

All of this sounds quite the way we think a church should be, and though to us the descriptive 'Anglican' implies a liturgical focus, perhaps the liturgy in our church is not exactly as handed down through the centuries, we suspect and hope that it's close enough to keep God from thinking we've gone astray.

The Anglican churches that we know are not churches of law or Biblical literalism but of living liturgy in communion with the Saints, balanced among scripture, tradition, and reason. We wouldn't presume to use the word Orthodox to describe them; it's already taken to mean something else, after all, but we think that we oughtn't let our present-day squabbles interfere with our understanding of what the word Orthodox really means, and meant to the generations of saints who spent their lives preserving that tradition of the Liturgy.

See you next week. And the week after that, and another.

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Last updated: 24 June 2007

*Oxford University Press, 1995. 'Issued with the blessing of His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I on the initiative of His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain for use in the Churches of the Archdiocese'

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