Of Icons & Hosts


The Readings for the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy
The First Sunday of the Great Fast

HEARING OF A BYZANTINE CATHOLIC podcast called What God is Not, I decided to give a listen to a ByzCath Nun, Mother Natalia, and Fr Michael O’Loughlin, a priest of the Eparchy of Phoenix. I was instantly drawn in, not only because of the excellent material and conversation, but also because Mother Natalia sounds exactly like someone I know – and in fact looks like her! I had to use my Google-Fu to make sure I wasn’t hearing a St D parishioner. Someplace in the first episode to which I listened, and sadly I do not remember which one it was, Mother made a comment to the effect that the East had to deal most with heresies around iconoclasm while the West had to deal with denial of the Eucharist. This, she suggested, was why Eucharistic Adoration is a thing in the West, but not in the East; and why icons, and venerating them, take such a huge role in the East. Marian apparitions are a thing in the West, but “revelations of Marion icons” are a thing in the East.

The listener’s mind was sufficiently blown. This is, certainly, an historic reality, but it’s a huge theological statement as well. Imagine the idea that God can work, locally, delivering what might be needed there.

I started teaching a class called ByzCath 101 at Our Lady of Fatima. It seemed like a good way to put my experience in the Orthodox Church to use or, rather, to bring that with me into the Catholic Church. Yet I’ve had to rethink a lot of things around how we parse out (T)radition vrs (t)radition. Big-T Tradition and Little-T Tradition are a huge argument on the Orthodox Internets. One can easily get burned for anything from letting women read prayers before Liturgy to using “you” for God. Did your pastor leave the Holy Doors open at Liturgy? You’re in danger of Modernist Ecumenism. Did your Bishop’s spiritual father commune with the Catholics or Communists in Soviet Russia? You’re outside of the Church now. It’s a mess! After 20 years or so, what seemed to me to be (T)radition was really just (t)radition all along. What was hyper important in this place wasn’t so important in that place. Yet, everyone seemed to be struggling towards God. So (T) must stand for things that are dealing with our salvation. (t) must be everything else. There’s a lot of (t) masquerading as (T) though.

Then, becoming Catholic and reading the Catechism, one begins to see that even the things that seemed very important at the end of my Orthodox Journey are only (t) as well. In fact, how to say mass or the Liturgy, how to pray, how to do anything, what confession means, how the sacraments work… even the Filioque. It’s all (t)radition. Yes, it’s hella important in your local Church, but in the end only what pertains to your salvation is (T). Everything else is (t). You must believe certain things, yeas – but those are the T. We cannot even legitimately say that certain things are required in a sacramental marriage or a sacramental confession unless we qualify them by saying “required in this particular church” with the subtext always being “but not in that one…”

Let me tell you how liberating it is to be a member of the Catholic Church!