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From the East: A Russian Orthodox Priest Explains His Spiritual Views


Rachel Mock: You also mentioned on the website that “theology is not separated from prayer and spirituality: the God whom we seek to understand is the God to whom we pray.” Could you explain more about prayer and spirituality within Eastern Orthodoxy?

Father Andrew: Both private prayer and liturgical prayer are important within Eastern Orthodoxy, and I would argue that they form the touchstone of theology: see my book, Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology (2013).


Rachel Mock: I noticed that you have also researched the notion of love in Eastern and Western Christian traditions. What have you discovered about the notion of love within Eastern and Western Christianity?

Father Andrew: It is long term project, not much advanced.  Love is, of course, a central notion in Christianity, but is interpreted in diverse ways. Rachel Mock: What influenced your decision to become an Orthodox priest?

Father Andrew: The parish in Durham needed a priest, and I was thought appropriate.


Rachel Mock: How have your religious beliefs influenced your life?

Father Andrew: I hope extensively.


Rachel Mock: What are the main differences among the various branches of Orthodoxy?

It is important to realize that the different Christian traditions share far more in common than what separates them.

Father Andrew: If you mean what is called ‘Eastern Orthodoxy’, then there are hardly any: differences of language, and because, for historical reasons, Orthodoxy is embedded in the cultures it has influenced, there are differences in customs and habits.  But so far as theology and liturgy is concerned, there are hardly any differences, and there is a great deal of interchange between the different (national) traditions.  The so-called ‘Oriental Orthodox’ churches also have many similarities, not least to a Western eye, but they only accept the first three ecumenical councils (as opposed to seven), and their liturgical traditions are quite independent, though there are many family resemblances.


Rachel Mock: How is Orthodox theology different from that of other Christian traditions?

Father Andrew: First of all, it is important to realize that the different Christian traditions share far more in common than what separates them.  In my view the explicit differences (the procession of the Holy Spirit, the use of leavened bread in the Eucharist, and other liturgical differences) have a largely cultural explanation.  The major difference between Orthodoxy and Roman catholicism is the role of the papacy. Rachel Mock: What do you believe about the gifts of the Holy Spirit?

Father Andrew: The gifts of the Holy Spirit are essential for the life of the Church: the essence of the Church lies in her invoking the coming of the Holy Spirit.


Rachel Mock: Do you believe that there are misconceptions about Orthodoxy that people of other Christian traditions have?

Father Andrew: Yes, lots, of course: mostly due to ignorance.  Only with the emigration from Russia, Greece and other countries over the Twentieth century, has Orthodoxy become at all well known in the West, and such knowledge is very patchy and often superficial.


Rachel Mock: What can people of other Christian traditions learn from Orthodoxy?

Father Andrew: I would say that we all need to learn from each other, by listening and praying together.



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Category: Ministry, Spring 2015

About the Author: Rachel E. Mock is a writer and a mental health counselor who lives in Florida with her husband. She grew up as a missionary kid in Europe in the 1990s, and she has continued to do international mission and humanitarian work as an adult. Rachel loves to learn and write about people of other cultures. She has worked as a correspondent for The Herald of Gadsden County and has written for several other publications, including Tallahassee Woman and She blogs about her thoughts, her cultural experiences, and her spiritual journey at Twitter. Facebook. Pinterest.

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