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April 17, 2009

Ritual, Spiritual, Gluttony or Growth.

Filed under: Religion And Theology — Vasilios Theodorakis @ 11:09 am

Today is the Orthodox Christian Good Friday. Traditionally, a day for the Apostolic faithful to reflect on life, death and everything in between. It always falls just after the Jewish Passover, in order to acknowledge and pay tribute to the Jewish Faith – Christ’s own religion, and to ensure consistency within the Orthodox Liturgical calendar.

Some of my earliest memories include attending Orthodox Christian services on this day. My maternal grandmother – Olga, would drag me around to all the liturgies during Holy Week, and though I understood nothing, she was determined to show me everything.

Since then, most of my adult life has been spent exploring and defending my Faith in spite of its adherents’ many short comings. My ability to “turn a blind eye” however is rapidly failing, not because anything has changed in my relation to the Faith, but because the abhorrent attitudes and behaviour of so many Orthodox Christians has become metaphysically dysfunctional – a lot of people below the age of 40, now follow the ritual without the spiritual. This approach has reached such epidemic proportions, that many are guilty of what the Protestants have always argued – i.e. that all we’re capable of is meaningless spectacle without any real relationship to God.

Those who know me, know I have always argued that our lack of reverence for God and worship is a direct outcome of the Faith being locked behind ethnic languages – especially in counties like Australia i.e. not being able to worship in the language in which one thinks can’t help but seed such a religious disaster. If the basis to the issue was that simple though, all one would have to do is change the language of the service and the problem would be corrected. Unfortunately, it’s becoming obvious that much more than language is to blame.

The problem also includes how “transplanted peasant culture and parishioner ignorance” has been fostered for generations, so much so, that many people born into Orthodoxy genuinely believe that as long as you go through the motions of the Faith, you are religious, (spiritually cleansed and ultimately saved). I’ve lost count of the number of people I know who are Atheists, but who show up every year at Pascha (Easter), hold the fast, attend services and even take communion though they don’t believe in Christ, let alone God. The religion is just a subset of their ancestral nationalisms and nothing has been done to educate and in turn discourage such an approach.

Which brings me to my main point – at a time when we should be reflecting on Christ’s suffering and sacrifice for humanity; at a time when we should be trying to emulate His infinite compassion for all creation; and at a time when we should be repenting from our dysfunctional and destructive natures – most of my brethren are obsessed with the deprivation of ritualistic fasting and unable to wait for their orgy of over indulgence come Sunday morning around 3:00 am. So much for faith helping with one’s personal evolution and the fast being a personal sacrifice we offer back to God!

The fact that Australia’s Orthodox will smash millions of battery hen eggs then toss those eggs into bins, seems to be a non-issue – it doesn’t matter that there’s an inconsistency between Christ’s message of compassion and how these animals suffer unspeakable miseries in order to produce a resource that just gets wasted. The fact that countless animals will be slaughtered for an overindulgence that is not necessary (especially when we have grains like amaranth, chia, quinoa which use far less of the planet’s resources) and that we openly ignore how much of the earth’s human population doesn’t have enough to eat on a daily basis – is conveniently forgotten as more meat is shovelled into already overfed mouths. The fact that Orthodox parishioners don’t even know what the term Theosis means, how it is a corner stone of their own religion and how their cultural based lifestyles are the antithesis of Christ’s message of openness, temperance, balance and an ongoing focus on God – doesn’t seem to matter – but then again why should it, when vast numbers of Australia’s Orthodox Christians don’t even believe in God let alone the Trinity or the theology of the Faith.

Maybe I’m just being picky here, but I still think that when we remove the spiritual basis of a religion, it just becomes superstition. Albeit a complex form of superstition, but a superstition none the less. I’m just glad my grandmother isn’t alive to see what the descendants of the post war migrants in Australia have done to her beloved Faith. Rather than it being a means to an end i.e. the ongoing struggle to emulate Christ, it has become a non-sustainable end in itself.

Cheers – Vasilios Theodorakis – April 2009


  1. Vasili, as you so rightly say …at a time when we should be reflecting on what Christ has done for us, surrendering our ego in the act of repentance, we are appeasing ourselves with the fact that we fast, go to Holy services and perform orthodox rituals.

    As I ponder your commentary, I am reminded of my readings today. Alone, in my apartment in China, where the stillness of Holy Saturday resonates. Where there is no church, no rituals to distract me and make me feel `good’ because I attended 5 services during Holy week. Here, there is only me and the struggle to surrender the `me’.

    The critical mirror that you hold up to brothers and sisters of the Orthodox faith, serves to remind us all that the inner struggle requires more than physical work, abstinence and attendance. For the abolition of pride, vanity and arrogance and the release of resentment is what can lead us to humbly ask God for forgiveness. This insight and action is surely the best gift that Christ, (who shed his blood) would like to give us, this Holy Pascha!

    May the Lord have mercy on the animals that sacrificed their blood for us this Pascha.

    Eleni McDermott

    Comment by Eleni McDermott — April 18, 2009 @ 9:07 pm

  2. Hi Vas

    Hear Hear…

    What do you think about posting this on the VVOV website? I think it is so relevant. You’ve really hit the nail on the head.


    Comment by Jacki Huestis — April 26, 2009 @ 6:25 pm

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