Category Archives: Random thoughts

Bright Week or No-longer-Lent?

Christ is risen!

My friend, Sherry Weddell, over at the Intentional Disciples blog asked this question. She went on to say:

Here we are at the 4th day of the Easter season or Bright Wednesday as it is known in the Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic traditions.  The whole week after Easter Sunday to the following Saturday is called Bright Week and is considered to be a single continuous day.

But are we living this week as Bright Week or just No-Longer-Lent?

According to the Council of Trullo: “from the holy day of the Resurrection of Christ our God until New Sunday (i.e. Thomas Sunday) for a whole week the faithful in the holy churches should continually be repeating psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, rejoicing and celebrating Christ, and attending to the reading of the Divine Scriptures and delighting in the Holy Mysteries. For in this way shall we be exalted with Christ; raised up together with Him. For this reason on the aforesaid days that by no means there be any horse races or any other public spectacle”.

In pre-revolutionary Russia, the taverns used to be closed during Bright Week, and no alcoholic beverages were sold.  Hmmm, that would cramp the average Catholic’s No-Longer-Lent style.

OK.  Singing.  Rejoicing and celebrating Christ.  Delighting in the Holy Mysteries.  No horse races.  Got it.

Ouch. Sherry’s got it, and she’s Catholic; I’m wonder how many of the people I hang with can say they’ve got it.

Look, for one week out of the year the altar in the church stands with all the doors wide open and the curtain drawn back, showing the empty tomb of Christ and the fact that “middle wall of partition,” as St Paul has it, has been broken down, that the cherub’s “flaming sword no longer guards the gates of Paradise,” that the new life in Christ is flooding into the world. Who among our faithful know that the altar stands open like that for all of Bright Week? Or what it means? Or cares?

As a Priest, I freely admit that I’ve scarcely got steam left in me for Agape Vespers, much less Liturgy on Bright Monday, and Bright Tuesday, though I always celebrate Liturgy on Wednesdays, so Bright Wednesday isn’t a problem. But it’s the only day in Bright Week I celebrate Liturgy. And Great Lent plus Holy Week is a long time to go without three square meals, adequate sleep, and … other things.

Still.

After Communion at the Divine Liturgy do we Priests not say, “O great and holiest Pascha, Christ; O Wisdom, Word and Power of God, grant that we may truly partake of You in day without evening of your Kingdom.” Well, dear hearts, Bright Week is The Day Without Evening Of His Kingdom that we pray about. If we don’t honor it here in the type, will be be able to honor it there in reality?

Is Bright Week the time to forget about church until next Sunday, forget about weekday services until next year, eat the leftover lamb, and relax? If we “forget about church,” then surely how much more have we forgotten about Christ? I’m afraid we’re far from “repeating psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, rejoicing and celebrating Christ, and attending to the reading of the Divine Scriptures and delighting in the Holy Mysteries.”

Alas, I don’t think it’s Bright Week for many of us. Rather, Sherry is right: it’s just no-longer-Lent.

I confess I miss the rigors of Great Lent and the daily services of Great & Holy Week. I’ve no place to put the pent up energy I’ve got, nothing much with which to channel it. I think I’ll quit sitting at my desk for a while and sneak back over to my quiet, empty church, where the doors of the altar stand wide open and inviting, where cor ad cor loquitur, and where, just maybe, my own heart, hearing the call, will open up a little bit in response.

Indeed He is risen!

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Belated reflection on Acton University

I was privileged to attend Acton University, the 4-day conference sponsored each June by Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, MI. Illness and vacation have kept me from posting some thoughts about my experiences there. Per their own website,

Acton University is a unique, four-day exploration of the intellectual foundations of a free society. Guided by a distinguished, international faculty, Acton University is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge and integrate rigorous philosophy, Christian theology and sound economics.

There were over 400 in attendance, faculty, students, clergy, seminarians, from over 50 countries, most all of them Roman Catholic and Evangelical, but with a small sprinkling of Orthodox (may our number increase!).

A first-timer, like myself, attends four foundational lectures on Christian anthropology, Christianity and the idea of limited government, the economic way of thinking, and foundations of a free and virtuous society. Subsequently, I was free to attend lectures on environmental issues that interested me (and which contributed to my starting this blog).

Listening to the lectures, I was repeatedly struck by the breadth of learning and the familiarity with the whole fabric of Western culture that the presenters and participants had at their command. I have not participated in a discussion like this since my days at the University of Dallas. My admiration for Acton and the quality of the people it brings together is unbounded.

At any rate, as I listened to the presentations, I began to wonder what I, as an Orthodox Christian, had to bring to the table. Certainly, with regard to a Christian response to environmental issues, I do think that Orthodoxy has a number of themes and/or perspectives which I heard no mention of by the Evangelical presenters. These I will save for later posts on this blog, because they form the substance of what I want to present here on this subject.

I think, too, that on foundational issues, like Christian anthropology and fundamental ideas of a virtuous (if not a free) society, the Orthodox familiarity with–and respect for–the patrimony of the Fathers’ teaching is something we can certainly offer. (During informal discussions, I found people not merely tolerant of my Orthodox views, but positively eager to hear what I had to say.)

On the other hand, I don’t think there is much that is distinctively Orthodox that we can contribute to discussions of a free society, limited government, or to economic freedom. (Please correct me if I am wrong, but) until recent times, the broad political situation of Orthodoxy has been imperial (Roman & Byzantine), tsarist, dhimmitude under the caliph or Turkish millet, and Communist. If there have been significant Orthodox contributions to economic thought, I am unaware of them.

In view of my experience at Acton, I think that Orthodox Christians have much to offer theologically to non-Orthodox forums–and we should be willing to offer what we can–, but that we have much to learn from others about in which we are weak. In this respect, a real humility and willingness to “step out of our comfort zone” and acknowledge the expertise which others — and other disciplines — can provide can be enormously enriching, not only personally, but to the Church as well.

Now, up to this point,  all of this is rather academic (literally and metaphorically).  However, the recent Episcopal Assembly gives me pause. Some of the discussion generated on other forums about the role of the OCA’s autocephaly and lay participation in the OCA’s governance leads me to think that the Anglo-American tradition of limited government and understanding of human freedom — such as what Acton upholds — are valuable to the Church, precisely because they promote human dignity, freedom and personal responsibility.  They are ideals that need to be understood well, and articulated well, so that the Church can consider them well.  In this respect, Acton Institute is an excellent resource.