The burning issue of politics of dominion in Christian Orthodoxy as the Christian church of the old calendar is more divided than ever. – Words & pictures by Paul Heaney
Christmas isn’t just for Christmas December 25th and the kind of Christians you might ordinarily come across on the high streets and churches of Western Europe. It is still being celebrated this new year. This isn’t because we’ve entered some time warp or weird portal, its the fact that Christianity is divided between the Gregorian Calendar (as in Pope Gregory XIII of 1582) as most of the world goes by, and the Julian calendar (as in Julius Caesar of 43BC) that Orthodox Christians go by, such as the Greek, Russian and Serbian Orthodox Church.
The Julian based Christian Orthodox Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ on January 7th, being 2 weeks after the Gregorian based church calendar. To further complicate matters, since 2018 and due to the conflicts between Russia and Ukraine that started in 2014, much of the Ukrainian Orthodoxy has split into a separate entity, now the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Still, the light of continuity, unity and Orthodoxy still burns brightly in churches all over Christendom, from the oil lanterns to the beeswax candles lit by followers of Christian Orthodoxy, no matter which precise denomination in whichever nation.
Fr Bojen Radicevic, a recent immigrant who arrived in England from Serbia and the old Yugoslavia during the divisive Covid times, who now guides his flock and presides over the icon festooned Serbian Orthodox Church in Boothtown, a suburb of Halifax in West Yorkshire, northern England, where a long-standing community of people from pre and ex Yugoslavia settled predominantly throughout the 1950’s-1990’s. Tito’s western styled and most celebrated ‘successful’ totalitarian state peaked in the 1970’s, then went through stagnation and finally broke up in the 1990’s, culminating with the bombing of Yugoslavia by NATO forces in 1999. The then Prime Minister of the UK Tony Blair ignored a 12-point plan presented to him by Rosie Barnes MP on behalf of a peace campaigning group headed by this writer, comprised of highly motivated ex Yugoslavian professionals who found the NATO campaign and any aggression on any side highly offensive.
Churches of all faiths and colours are going through changing and testing times. Religion may have a history of manipulation, censorship and control that has dominated much of the world’s population for thousands of years, until now. What is striking, is that the churches traditionally set out to disempower humanity, and weighing down souls with not just a prick of consciousness, but they largely wished their followers to feel the weighty burden of guilt around their necks.
I believe the direction of flow we are now witnessing is one of self empowerment, where each member of humanity finds their own light within themselves, which in theory is what ‘the church’ is perhaps meant to do, but in practice, by its nature, is a tool of division. For this is the common mark of how mankind has been deceived and led down a darker path than is our natural inheritance. It is a history of man exploiting man. I believe this is coming to an end.
This is not to say that we cannot appreciate the beauty and certain aspects of religion and the church of any denomination, if we care to look. There are many good men and women out there who’s vocation is the church or religion that they have tethered themselves to, who are doing fine work even beyond the usual officiated remit of their sanctioned station in life.
I believe these so called holy orders are stepping stones to the final release and emancipation of our souls, so finally the whole being can shine forth, unencumbered by the politics of any dominating denomination. For we should be careful not to throw out the baptismal baby along with the bath water. For surely, it is not about how many candles there are that divide the light, but moreover, surely it is about recognising the light itself, which shines so very brightly in each and every one of us. If only we recognised it.
Paul Heaney, January 2023
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