He who places his hope on thee, O Virgin all-glorious, will prosper in all he does.

Inscription on Byzantine coin during reign of Romanus III

Thursday, July 07, 2011


This is a little snippet that I posted at another blog in response to Ariston's statement: “When contemplating how Orthodoxy can speak to modernity, I constantly come across in my mind the depressing conclusion that Meyendorff was right, and Byzantine theology died in 1453.”

My reply:

I was thinking the same thing, and it’s equally applicable to Orthodox thinking about secular topics as well. The totality of Orthodox thought has been inescapably shaped by dhimmitude, Old Rome’s triumphalist propaganda, the ubiquity of of the monastic class, and the collapse of the laity’s virtù from conquest.

The laity disappeared as a countervailing force in post-Constantinopolitan Orthodox society, except for brief spurts of murderous sociopathy.


Theron said...

This is sad, and I believe this is why other non-Orthodox forms of Christianity seem more vigorous in the public square.

As laity, we have abandoned or function as ministers in society to the sacramental clergy.

Visibilium said...

Yes, but it's not entirely the laity's fault. The demise of the Orthodox State, which is the key representative of the laity in the Church/State synergy, left a vacuum. The clergy and monks then became busy preserving Orthodoxy under embattled conditions, and I'll be the first to acknowledge their important contribution to our spiritual continuity.

On the other hand, the contrast between our current state and our Byzantine existence is striking. The Roman Empire was a commercial empire, and Constantinople's wealth, sophistication, and splendor reflected that. At the same time, Old Rome was an also-ran, but cheeky, agrarian backwater. Nowadays, however, how many of our clergy feel uncomfortable existing in a commercial society? How many of our clergy implicitly feel that it's unchristian for someone engage with the world to the extent of making gobs of money or wielding gobs of power?

Ok, here's another one. In Constantinople, a vigorous debate went on about whether the role of the Emperor was to guarantee and protect the rights of Roman citizens. By contrast, many Orthodox today regard tyrannical and bloodthirsty Tsarism as a political norm.

Stephen said...

And what government has not proven itself to be tyrannical and bloodthirsty to certain populations????

Yeah, you can't name one.

Visibilium said...

Yep, governments suck. I couldn't have said it better. We have to content ourselves with less sucky examples, but the underlying reality is suckiness. Is there an alternative waiting in the wings?