It may have come to your attention that the Protestant blogger Jeff Maples visited Resurrection Matins at a Greek Orthodox church, and didn’t like it. In fact, he was scandalized by the whole thing. He pronounced it a “dead church.” Apparently he has a habit of going to churches other than his own and pronouncing them alive or dead, based upon whether he liked them. He really, really did not like the Greek Orthodox Resurrection Matins. I can’t decide what my favorite part of his rant is, personally. The part where he judges Orthodox men for taking a smoke break while admitting to having once smoked pot through a paper towel tube is pretty funny, as is the part where he both criticizes the length of the liturgy and also its lack of a sermon, which he calls “teaching.” He thinks there’s no “teaching” at all in the Greek Orthodox church, and then has the stones to be offended that you have to pay attention to hear the Scriptures. This is especially funny considering that at every Eastern liturgy I’ve ever been to, the priest literally bawls “BE ATTENTIVE!” before every reading. Maples thinks Byzantine chant is “eerie” and that painted icons are “graven images,” and he calls the thurible “smells and bells.” Maybe he should have taken a moment to read some Orthodox “teaching” before crashing Resurrection Matins. It’s remarkable how much ranting one can get out of a visit to a church one hasn’t bothered to research in the least beforehand.
Now, I wouldn’t venture a guess as to whether Mr. Maples and his church are “Dead” or not. I have nothing against protestants. have been to some wonderful protestant churches. My hair stands on end with awe whenever I walk past the local protestant church; I don’t know its denomination but I know that something beautiful goes on there when Pastor Mitchell is preaching. I wouldn’t presume to say how much of my feelings of reverence are the Holy Ghost and how much are pure emotional contagion. That’s not my place to say. But where people gather to worship Our Lord as best they know how– that is a good place, and it is good for that place to exist, whether I understand it or not.Still, I can’t help but contrast Mr. Maples’s experience with my own. I also went to my very first Resurrection Matins in an Eastern church this year. I’m not Greek Orthodox, I’m canonically Latin Catholic and seeking transfer to become a Uniate, so I don’t think either Mr. Maples or the Greek Orthodox Church cares about my opinion, but this is my blog so I’ll give it anyway.
I didn’t know what to expect. Holy Week, ending with the Easter Vigil, was the only time I’d really felt like a Catholic at my old church; it was the only thing I’ve missed about the Latin church except for my Advent wreath. I don’t speak Church Slavonic. I can’t even pronounce it or tell you when it comes from. I got into trouble for mistaking Rusyn people for Ukrainians recently. I couldn’t tell you anything about either ethnic group, except that they don’t like to be mistaken for one another. I only know that the worship in the Byzantine Catholic Church speaks to my heart in deep, wondrous ways I can’t explain, and I was excited to see how it would speak to my heart at the Resurrection Matins.
I’ve never really understood the Resurrection, either. I understand a lot about suffering, or feel that I do; I’ve pondered death before and pretend I know about death. I’ve never known what to say about the Resurrection. It’s not only a complete mystery to me, but a mystery I didn’t know how to begin to ponder. So I didn’t begin. I didn’t try to understand. I put on my good dress, I packed my Pascha basket and I went to Matins.
We held electric flicker candles. We marched around the church, singing alternately in English and Slavonic. We stood before the door and sang. We went inside.