Orthodox Constructions of the West

Orthodox Constructions of the West

Orthodox Constructions of the West

Orthodox Constructions of the West

Synopsis

The category of the "West" has played a particularly significant role in the modern Eastern Orthodox imagination. It has functioned as an absolute marker of difference from what is considered to be the essence of Orthodoxy, and, thus, ironically, has become a constitutive aspect of the modern Orthodox self. The essays collected in this volume examines the many factors that contributed to the "Eastern" construction of the "West" in order to understand why the "West" is so important to the Eastern Christian's sense of self.

Excerpt

George E. Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou

Who is Western? Who is Eastern? Am I “Eastern” if I commune in an Eastern Orthodox parish in Toledo, Ohio? Am I “Western” if I commune at an Eastern-Rite Catholic parish in Kiev? What if I was baptized into the Eastern Orthodox faith as a child, but I’ve never learned an Eastern language or traveled outside of the United States—am I Eastern or Western? What if I am a convert to an Eastern or Western faith? In short, what is the link between religious confession and location, and how do the considerations of confession and location impact the construction of self and its other(s)?

Perhaps even more problematic are the questions that surround the actual location of East and West. Is it a physical location? If so, it certainly is not a static one. What is more, wherever it is that East and West belong on the map, it would seem to shift according to perspective. Is the location of East and West linked to a linguistic and/or cultural distinction? For the Christians of late antiquity and the Middle Ages, it is possible to locate with some confidence those Christians who worshipped in Greek versus those who worshipped in Latin. So too, the division of the Christian world into five autonomous patriarchates (a division often known as the Pentarchy) does follow along certain linguistic—though not ethnic—distinctions (though even this seemingly clear distinction is thrown into some confusion by the Balkans). And while it is true that the Greek/Latin binary might help to explain why the competition for converts in the Balkans . . .

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