I can tell this is going to be one of those books I have to read a bit slowly because it's all new to me. I plan to not get bogged down in detailed notes, preferring to jot key thoughts and interesting tidbits that took my attention instead. Feel free to expound upon anything here or in future notes if you wish.
Right off the bat on page one, the author caught my attention when he said "Christians in the west, both Roman and Reformed, generally start by asking the same questions, although they may disagree about the answers. In Orthodoxy, however, it is not merely the answers that are different - the questions themselves are not the same as in the west."
Immediately I wanted to know: "what do you mean? what different questions?", but of course I must read the book to find the answers!
Although I've always considered myself as a Protestant to be very different from Catholics, in Orthodox views we "appear as two sides of the same coin" and the Pope is the first Protestant!
Orthodoxy means "right belief" and "right glory/worship" and the Orthodox "regard their Church as the Church which guards and teaches the true belief about God and which glorifies Him with right worship." (pg. 8)
Also in the introduction the author mentions briefly that the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox churches split. This book mainly discusses the latter. He notes how the eastern expansion of the church was thwarted by this division and later the split with the Roman Catholic church kept it from expanding westward. So it moved north...thus you find Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and surrounding areas home to large numbers of Orthodox Christians. (pg.5)
Much of the time the Church was part of the State. (pg. 7) This reminds me of other books I've read where the religion and state were very closely tied in the past. People identified themselves mainly by religious labels in those days.
Although the Patriarch of Constantinople (known as the Ecumenical [or universal] Patriarch) holds a high honorary position, there is no equivalent to the Catholic Pope in Orthodox Christianity. (pg. 7)
In speaking of the Church and how people tend to think of it, the author notes Ignatius "thought of the Church as a Eucharistic society, which only realizes its true nature when it celebrates the Supper of the Lord, receiving His Body and Blood in the sacrament. But the Eucharist is something that can only happen locally - in each particular community gathered round its bishop; and at every local celebration of the Eucharist it is the whole Christ who is present, not just part of Him. Therefore each local community, as it celebrates the Eucharist Sunday by Sunday, is the Church in its fullness." (pg. 13)
Obviously this caught my attention since I noted it, but as to its meaning...I'm still trying to figure it out. "Realizes its true nature" -- what's this? And what does he mean by stressing the "whole Christ" is present rather than merely a part of Him? Why is celebrating the Eucharist "the Church in its fullness"? Maybe the rest of the book sheds light these topics, but for now I'm pondering these words.
The three types of martyrdom was interesting:
1. White -- abandoning everything you love for the sake of God ; I'm guessing this is like a nun or monk possibly even a missionary who leaves his country and the comforts of home and family being near to serve God on a foreign field
2. Green -- freeing yourself of evil desires by fasting, laboring, or "suffer[ing] toil in penance and repentance" -- I remembered a blog discussion a few weeks ago about unmarried Muslim men controlling sexual urges by fasting when I saw this description (note: sex is not an evil desire; however outside of marriage, sex is frowned on and considered sinful in some religions)
3. Red -- enduring "a Cross or death for Christ's sake" (pg.15) -- I believe these are the ones most of us think of when we hear the word martyr (I do anyway); think shaheed in Islam
The Orthodox Church believes councils are important. In fact, "it believes that the council is the chief organ whereby God has chosen to guide His people. ... In the Church there is neither dictatorship nor individualism, but harmony and unanimity; its members remain free but not isolated, for they are united in love, in faith, and in sacramental communion. ... In a true council no single member arbitrarily imposes his will upon the rest, but each consults with the others, and in this way they all freely achieve a 'common mind.'" (pg. 15)
I liked that description of councils actually. I've noticed how the East tends to be more about community and family whereas the West often stresses individualism (although I'd be wrong to say family and society are thrown out the window as family is very important to most of us despite what outsiders may think.) "Free but not isolated" sounds quite good actually.
On the negative side: I wonder if all these men who make up the council (I'm assuming women are not part of this) "freely achieve a 'common mind'" that keeps women as second-class residents of this planet whose main purpose in life is to serve men and breed children. I suppose I'll have to read more and make up my mind.