Friday, June 29, 2012

введение

As I think of how to best introduce myself, I am forced to reflect on my roots. Although usually when people ask about my Orthodox particularity the categories are “Cradle” or “Convert,” I am a mix of both. My mother’s family is Orthodox (Antiochian and Syriac), but I was not raised in that tradition. My German father and his Reformed heritage played a much more significant role in my theological upbringing. These two worlds actually collided and coincided cohesively. My Protestant grandfather adored the early Church. I have his Josephus text. He had extensive Greek lexicons and Hebrew aids. His penciled notebooks reflect his thoughts on Eusebius, in between teaching himself Spanish. He instilled this sense of wonder in my father, who dialogued with me about theology since I was young. When I began to practice Orthodoxy in college, I realized I never saw the Reformed side of my family clash with the Orthodox side. Truly, my path to Eastern Orthodoxy was forged by my grandfather and father with their commitment to a true-to-life faith, messiness and complexity and beauty intact. My parents found common ground in Scripture and the legacy of the early Church. I hope that my work reflects the expansiveness of my parents’ faith, their worshipful reflection on texts, and the Eastern and Western perspectives that live alongside each other in my home (and in the world). Christian history is Christian history. The early Church legacy belongs to all in the Church and waits to inform our movements, ignorant of modern divisions.

I strongly agree with Fr. Alexander Schmemann when he comments on the sad divorce between the study of theology and the worship life of the Church.

Alexander Schmemann,The Eucharist, 13.
The basic defect of school theology consists in that, in its treatment of the sacraments, it proceeds not from the living experience of the Church, not from the concrete liturgical tradition that has been preserved by the Church, but from its own a priori and abstract categories and definitions, which hardly conform to the reality of church life.
Study should inspire worship, and worship further study and ideally an expansion, not abandonment, of categories. This is where I appreciate the tendency of Orthodox priests and parishioners to say, "Yes, but more." This phrase acknowledges that a category is required for understanding and conversation, but when speaking of the Divine categories will fail to grasp the essence. Our expressions, jargon, and labels can only hope to reflect what we see, images lit in a mirror dimly.

Most of my interests spring organically from the movements of the laity, down here on the ground where we struggle to make sense of ritual, where we need to explain the purpose of this weird counter-cultural life to our children and to ourselves. I am interested in Eucharistic eating, elevating treatment of the body as a tool for worship, and ecumenical dialogue. I mourn the historic fractures between communions but believe honest, respectful communication can heal so many wounds. I hope my contributions can be at least a nod in that direction.

While studying at Princeton Theological Seminary, I had several opportunities to study ecumenics as an academic topic as well as countless conversations in theological classes where I had to defend/explain Orthodox positions. The concerns of the Reformers often line up with Orthodox concerns - in fact George Hunsinger made the statement in his "Lord's Supper" class that if the Eastern church had been involved he doubts the reformational rifts would have occurred. His work connecting Barth with Eastern descriptions, especially regarding the table, inspired me to engage reformational theology with confidence, expecting to find connections with the Fathers. I was surprised to uncover a rich undercurrent of Patristic perspectives in Barth and even Calvin. These are untapped riches for our communions where we could connect in meaningful, theologically significant ways.

[Ed. note: this post's title is the Russian word for an introductory letter.]
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3 comments:

Derek Maris said...

Hi Kate, glad to have you aboard!

Matthew Warren said...

I really enjoyed reading your post, Kate. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on the Orthodox and Reformation traditions.

Kate McCray said...

Thanks to you both. I'm excited to be a part of these important conversations!