An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Touchy-Feely We are beings of two different worlds, but I do not think they are as separated as might be popularly believed. As we all know the gnostics were predisposed to hate the material world, envisioning that some evil demi-god had created it - this indeed was the teaching of Marcion who rejected the God of the Old Testament. But Orthodox Christians stood up for the goodness of the created and material world - seeing ourselves as a part of it as well as a part of the invisible spiritual world (no less created, by the way).
Modern gnostics (of which there are many) will often try and convince us that the body is merely a shell, or that the physical world is of little or no value. They will scoff at our kissing icons or venerating the deceased, the True Cross, or other relics. Yet these same will very likely have cherished mementos of their own such as their grandfather's broken old watch, or their grandmothers torn and ragged old quilt - items of no real value except that which cannot be seen or measured). In reality, I think all do actually recognize our attraction to the world. And I do not mean in a negative way.
Last weekend, a couple of old rusted and twisted metal beams toured Kitsap county and drew fairly large crowds. People came to look upon them and to reverently lay their hands upon them, caress them, and hold them in their grasp. Just ordinary steel and yet we have ascribed to them some notion of sanctity. Simply because these beams came from the ruin of the World Trade Center buildings, we see in them a certain sacredness that is lacking in ordinary steel beams. It would seem that these mementos are a sort of touch-point for us; a physical connection or a bridge between our own horror at watching the death and destruction from thousands of miles away and the people who actually lived and died amidst it.
As I see pictures of people bowing their heads and reaching out to the metal, I am reminded that we humans are sacramental beings. We inherently GET sacramental theology (at least to some degree), even if we cannot find the words to describe it. We surround ourselves with material keepsakes and we recognize an inherent value is such things which without our ascribed significance would likely otherwise be of no value at all.
I think Orthodoxy really meshes with this natural inclination. Orthodoxy is a religion that engages the senses and readily agrees in the values (even to the level of the mystical) of material objects that have had extraordinary surroundings or happenings. And of course, God in His energies often meets us in the context of material things, the most preeminent (and far-exceeding my description) example of course is the great mystery of Holy Communion.
In some way, our touchy-feely inclination I think is an expression of our sense of loneliness in this universe and our desire to be connected with one another and ultimately to our Creator.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:39 PM [+] +++
I wasn't aware this was making a "tour". Kind of the secular equivalent of a wonder working relic. I never cease to be amazed how most protestant Christians could look at this and say "Yeah!" and GET it, but if you put a relic or icon in front of them its idolatry. The compartmentalization of what passes for "faith" and what is our "true humanity" is often sad and astounding. Great post.
An evangelical acquaintance asked me to summarize the differences between Orthodoxy and whatever passes for Protestantism these days. I answered that I could not do so briefly, but I offered to start with the different view of grace (without, of course, going into Palamite detail). So I just said, "Grace is God's uncreated energy, typically conveyed in, by, or through substances such as bread, wine, water, oil, and so on. It is important to see this because grace ultimately comes from the Incarnation." He rejected this as "too mystical," and went on to defend the Protestant (actually Gnostic) view of grace. There aren't many things that are more abstract (mystical in the pejorative sense) than that. Go figure.