Orthodox Christianity: Canada
PROTESTANTS MET ORTHODOXY
An interview with Orthodox writer Bev Cooke, Canada
by Tudor Petcu
JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY
Tudor Petcu is a Romanian writer, graduate of the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest, Romania. He has published a number of articles related to philosophy and theology in different cultural and academic journals. His work focuses on the evolution of Orthodox spirituality in Western societies as well and he is going to publish a book of interviews with Westerners converted to Orthodoxy. In this article, he interviews Bev Cooke, a Canadian writer who converted to Orthodoxy.
* * *
TP: Given the fact that you are one of the most well-known orthodox thinkers and writers in the West, I think it would be very good if you could introduce yourself and present the way by which you have discovered the Orthodoxy. Why have you chosen the conversion to Orthodoxy and how do you understand the Orthodox spirituality as a way of living?
Bev Cooke: Thank you very much for those kind words, but I’m really not as famous or as wise as you say! There are a lot of people who are much wiser, and I learn from them every day!
I was born and raised in Toronto Ontario, Canada and was baptized into the Anglican church. My father, the son of a Protestant minister, was a tolerant and gentle atheist who actually taught me a lot about Christian behaviour – he was one of the gentlest, kindest, most accepting and loving men I’ve ever known. My mother left the Anglican church when I was about five (I don’t know why, she never told me). So I grew up in a very secular household, but was always conscious of God and of needing His love, His mercy and his presence in my life.
In my teens, I hung around with a group of Catholic kids, attended mass and the youth group, and almost converted until a kind and wise priest advised me first to explore my own faith, and then decide if I should be Catholic. So I did, and the plan to convert ended up being put on hold for over twenty years and I ended up Orthodox, not Catholic. I was, for a long time, happy and fulfilled in Continue reading “An interview with Orthodox writer Bev Cooke, Canada”
ROMAN CATHOLICS MET ORTHODOXY
The Not So Eastern Church
Fr. Lawrence Farley, Canada
ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA
I can, I think, count on the fingers of my one hand the number of times I have described myself as an Eastern Orthodox. Usually the preferred self-designation is simply “Orthodox,” but sometimes this provokes confusion, as when I am further asked, “Oh, are you Jewish?” The respondent has clearly heard of Orthodox Jews, and supposes that I must be one of them, though you would think the big pectoral cross around my neck would tip them off somewhat that I was a Christian. On these occasions I am reduced to elaborating more fully, saying that I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian: “You know, like the Russians, or the Greeks?” The respondent’s eyes then glaze over for a moment, since I am neither Russian, nor Greek, but they usually let the matter drop. In these conversations, the adjective “eastern” serves to connect me with a known quantity, such as the Russian Orthodox Church or the Greek Orthodox Church—i.e. the ones on television with the fancy robes and the icons.
There is a reason for not referring to our Church as “the Eastern Orthodox Church”—namely, that we are not in fact eastern. Our own jurisdiction has its membership in the west (i.e. North America), and my own parish is situated on the extreme west coast of that western continent. So, in what sense are we eastern? Only in the historical sense, and long dead history at that. In the first millennium the Church was dispersed throughout the Roman world, living in the west from Britain to Rome and in the east, from Jerusalem to Parthia and beyond. (Yep, Parthia. Like I said: long dead history.) In those far off days, east was east and west was west and never (or rarely) the twain shall meet. The church organized itself into patriarchates, including the famous five of the so-called “Pentarchy”, even though the actual reality never was quite as tidy as all that. In this ancient system, you had Rome leading the west, and Constantinople leading the east. Latin flourished out west, and Greek out east (and later on, Slavic languages in the northern land of the Rus) and, oh yes, Syriac. In those days, the designations of “western church” and “eastern church” meant something, since the faithful who lived in the west didn’t often visit the east, and those in the east visited the west even less often. Most people, in fact, didn’t travel very far from their homes at all, and for the overwhelming majority a trip of a hundred miles was the trip of a lifetime. The Greeks stayed in Greece, and the British stayed in Britain. (The Irish monks took to travelling, but that counted as a kind of ascetic exploit, and was quite exceptional.) Thus “the eastern church” was the church you found in the eastern part of the Roman empire, and which had certain identifiable characteristics, including language, liturgical traditions, and a certain way of organizing its life. “The western church” was the one you found in the west, which also had its distinctive language (Latin), its liturgical traditions and ways of organizing itself. Geography largely determined where churches with these characteristics were to be found.
That was then, and this is now. Since then people have enjoyed a tremendous increase in mobility. Greeks no longer are to be found only in Greece; they can be found anywhere. And people formerly found only in the west are now found also in eastern regions. Thus, people of religions that were once found in geographical concentration in a particular place can now be found everywhere in the global village: Roman Catholicism is global—as is Orthodoxy. As is Islam.
In this world it makes little sense to refer to the Roman Catholic church (or to its Protestant daughters) as “the western church,” and little sense to refer to the Orthodox church as “the eastern church.” Geography has succumbed to mobility and world-wide diffusion. Could one perhaps salvage the designation “eastern” by using it to refer to the liturgical usages of the church that was once rooted and concentrated in the east? Could one say that things like the use of incense, and chanted services, and icons, and not using pews, are specifically and peculiarly eastern?
Well, no, actually. In the church of Britain before the Reformation, all of these things could be found there too. One entered a British church in (say) the fourteenth century and found Latin—and also icons all over the walls, and incense, and long chanted services, and no pews. It even had a large screen up front—the “rood screen” (not exactly an iconostas), separating the nave from the chancel. Things that we now most commonly associate with “the eastern Orthodox church” were once universal, even in the west. They are not so much specifically eastern as specifically Christian. The west has dropped most of them, and these things now survive only in the Orthodox Church.
I would suggest therefore that the issue is not whether a church is eastern, but whether its teaching is true. I sometimes meet dear friends who come from the “western churches” of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, who tell me that they could never convert to Orthodoxy because it is “eastern” and they are “western.” Conversion is treated as a kind of betrayal of their ancestors. But surely this is to do a disservice to one’s ancestors, who would prefer that one choose the truth whether it accords with family pedigree or not. And what about people from non-Christian backgrounds? What about people from India or China? Their ancestors were Hindus and Buddhists or Taoists, yet no one sensibly suggests that conversion to the Christian Faith involves a disservice to them. The fact is that for all people of whatever ancestry or geography, conversion involves taking Abraham and the patriarchs as their new ancestors, and like them “leaving your country and your father’s house” (Genesis 12:1). To be a Christian at all involves becoming a stranger to all the tribes of earth, and living as an alien and sojourner here, and of confessing that here we have continuing city (1 Peter 2:11, Hebrews 13:14). It is folly to say that we will embrace this eschatological rootlessness, but only if we can still retain cultural vestiges that defined our ancestors.
The Orthodox Church is not “the eastern Church.” It is simply “the Church”—the one that began in the east (i.e. Jerusalem) and from there spread out into all the world. Schisms and other catastrophes have attended it over the years as it soldiered on throughout the long and winding course of history. But it remains now what it always was. One can perhaps find our church defined as “the eastern church” in Google. But one cannot find it so described in the Creed. There we find it described with greater accuracy: “the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church”. Not so eastern, is it?
COMING HOME – ORTHODOXY
Answering Main Street Canada
JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY
We offer you an article written by Fr. Geoffrey Korz, Managing Editor of Orthodox Canada and the Dean of All Saints of North America Orthodox Church in Hamilton ON, Canada.
Some years ago, I had the pleasure of dining in Toronto’s “Greek Town” with a sister in Christ, a Greek grandmother who had been around the Church all her life, and who was a true realist. As we walked through the warm summer streets, surrounded by mobs of young people – many of them Greek, and presumably Orthodox Christians – my friend let out an audible exclamation.
“Look at them, Father – they don’t even know what an Orthodox priest is! Why aren’t they at Church?! They should be ashamed of themselves!”
Of course hearing this, all these young people heard the voice of their own yia-yia, or grandmother, confronting them with their own lack of piety, spiritual observance, and Continue reading “Answering Main Street Canada”
AMERICA OF MY HEART
CANADA OF MY HEART
The Vikings in Newfoundland: Canada’s first Orthodox parish?
by Fr. Geoffrey Korz
“Where two or three are gathered together in My name,
I am there in the midst of them” – Matthew 18:20
JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY
The tiny community of L’Anse aux Meadows at the far northern tip of Newfoundland is distinguished among Canadian heritage sites as the oldest European settlement in Canada. Scarcely a dozen buildings remain of this Viking settlement, constructed over one thousand years ago by a group of Scandinavian settlers who appeared ready to make a new home in the frigid northlands of what would later become Canada.
It is almost certain that the tiny group was led by a Viking named Karlsefni, an associate of Leif Erikson (called Leif the Lucky, for his many extraordinary successes), one of the first Norsemen to accept baptism within a largely pagan culture. By the time these settlers arrived in Canada, Christianity and paganism were living side by side in northern Europe, and had not yet had the opportunity to discover the differences which would inevitably lead to conflict. The Norse were a pragmatic lot, whose religious zeal was usually focused on doing whatever it took to survive and to win. And the Christian God was the ultimate Victor.
A delightful story is told of the curious Viking habit of seeking repeat baptisms; it seems the Norsemen were drawn to baptism, every year, at the hands of Saint Ansgar and others, enjoying the fresh white shirt and ten silver talents they customarily received at the hands of the priest, if only they would allow themselves to be submerged beneath the sacred waters (Joseph Lynch, Christianizing Kinship, p. 73). For the average pragmatic Viking, multiple baptisms simply made sense: it conferred spiritual as well as material benefits desperately needed in a seagoing culture, where life was hard, brutish, and Continue reading “The Vikings in Newfoundland: Canada’s first Orthodox parish? – Fr. Geoffrey Korz”
ROMAN CATHOLICS MET ORTHODOXY
O Καναδός Charles Taylor, Καθηγητής Πολιτικής Επιστήμης και Φιλοσοφίας στό Πανεπιστήμιο McGill του Montral του Καναδά μας αναφέρει:
«Ένας φίλος με έπεισε να παρακολουθήσω τη Θεία Λειτουργία του Πάσχα, στον Καθεδρικό Ναό της Ρωσικής Ορθόδοξης Εκκλησίας των Αγίων Πέτρου και Παύλου, στο Montreal. Αυτή η διαφορετική εκδοχή του Χριστιανισμού, σε σχέση με το γνώριμό μου Καθολικισμό, με συγκίνησε βαθειά».
TRUTH TARGET – ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΗ ΑΠΟΛΟΓΗΤΙΚΗ
NATIVE AMERICANS MET ORTHODOXY
CANADA: THE PASSING OF THE NATIVE AMERICAN MOHAWK’S CHIEF FRANK NATAWE (1927-2000)
The path of the Native American Mohawk’s Chief Frank Natawe
led him to the bosom of Orthodoxy
Dr. John (Yanni) Hadjinikolaou
Rate Professor of McGill University in Montreal, Canada
in the magazine Synaxis
“The passing of a Mohawk Native American”
Here is the story of Frank Natawe an American Native Mohawk’s Chief (1927-2000) who lived and died as an Orthodox Christian (Eastern Orthodox Church), at the same time defending his tribe’s tradition. He even began translating the words of the most holy ceremony of Orthodoxy into his own people’s language.
AMERICA OF MY HEART
Saturday night. Very few lights were on. In the Russian Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, Vespers have just started. The shadowy silhouettes of the few faithful who were attending the service became more defined, as the candles were lit, one by one, in the candle stand. The iconostasis of the altar was very imposing; it was something that was carved by experienced craftsmen at the beginning of the century…….
It was my second time at Vespers, years ago… The words of the prayer “mirthful light” in Slavonic gave one a sense of inner peace and relaxation. Everything seemed to be in prayer at that moment; for the day that passed and the day that was to come. After the madness of the day, this refuge of thankfulness actually calmed the wild beasts of the mind….
In the dim, half-light I could discern a few of the profiles there: an old Russian lady with her grandchild, a tall, skinny, middle-aged man, a young girl around fifteen, a young family with their two children… and suddenly, my attention was caught by a figure near the large window. Directly below it, I made out a silhouette that was completely different to all the others. It was a fifty-year old Native American with vivid, characteristic features, and his long hair tied back in a ponytail that reached his waist. My gaze stopped upon him… What a strange figure in here… I imagined he was just a visitor.
At the end of the service, I couldn’t fight the urge. I approached him, eager to meet him.
–Yannis, I said to him in English. Welcome..
– Vladimir, he replied.
– I’m Greek. And you? I asked him.
– So am I, he replied.
I was stunned…. That was the last thing I expected to hear!
– Do you speak Greek? I asked.
He paused to think for a moment, then quoted in Greek:
– «In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God, and God was the Logos».
Just as he finished saying this phrase, he burst into laughter. I was lost for words…
– I am Mohawk Native American, he said sharply. But somehow, I also feel Russian and Greek and Serbian and Romanian, because…. I’m Orthodox…..
A glimmer appeared in his eye, as it did in my heart…
This was how Vladimir and I met. His real name was Frank Natawe, before Continue reading “Canada: The passing of the Native American Mohawk’s Chief Frank Natawe (1927-2000)”