Although much has been written on the making of art objects as a means of engaging in creative productions of the self (
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The relationship between tradition and innovation in Orthodox Christianity has often been problematic, filled with tensi
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The Global Lives of Things considers the ways in which 'things', ranging from commodities to works of art and
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Things travel around the globe: they are shipped as mass consumer goods, or transported as souvenirs or gifts. There are
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Table of contents :
Table of contents
Preface (by way of apology)
Notes on language usage
Orthodoxy and materiality
Part I People and place
1 British Orthodoxy
2 Coming to the Orthodox temple
Experiencing the geography
Coming in/to the temple
The Orthodox temple
Visiting other parishes
3 Here and there
Our Lady of Walsingham, Norfolk
Materiality of place and thing
Vesting the temple
Part II Materials
4 Making sacred space
Making sensible space
Substance of the immaterial
Axis of incoherence
5 Materials of transformation
The catechumen Niyousha
Lessons in becoming a new person
By water and the Spirit
6 Materials of ikonicity
Ikonicity part 1: innate
Ikonicity part 2: acquired
The new socialities of Niyousha-Christina
Enduring and positional efficacy
Part III Making heaven
7 Becoming an ikon
The priestly vesture
Becoming an ikon
Technologies of becoming
Material indexicality and ikonicity
Materiality and ikonicity
Multiplicity and dividuality
Making Christ, building heaven
9 Becoming Orthodox, making heaven
The Agia Zone
Co-action of soul, body, external things
The sign of the cross
I swear I saw this
‘Bring me back a relic’
Epilogue: All Saints Barking of the Spice Rack
Diagram of St Æthelwald’s Parish Church
Orthodox Christian Material Culture
Although much has been written on the making of art objects as a means of engaging in creative productions of the self (most famously Alfred Gell’s work), there has been very little written on Orthodox Christianity and its use of material within religious self-formation. Eastern Orthodox Christianity is renowned for its artistry and the aesthetics of its worship being an integral part of devout practice. Yet this is an area with little ethnographic exploration available and even scarcer ethnographic attention given to the material culture of Eastern Christianity outside the traditional ‘homelands’ of the greater Levant and Eastern Europe. Drawing from and building upon Gell’s work, Carroll explores the uses and purposes of material culture in Eastern Orthodox Christian worship. Drawing on three years of ethnographic fieldwork in a small Antiochian Orthodox parish in London, Carroll focuses on a study of ecclesiastical fabric but places this within the wider context of Orthodox material ecology in Britain. This ethnographic exploration leads to discussion of the role of materials in the construction of religious identity, material understandings of religion, and pathways of pilgrimatic engagement and religious movement across Europe. In a religious tradition characterised by repetition and continuity, but also as sensuously tactile, this book argues that material objects are necessary for the continual production of Orthodox Christians as art-like subjects. It is an important contribution to the corpus of literature on the anthropology of material culture and art and the anthropology of religion. Timothy Carroll is British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, University College London, UK.
Routledge Studies in Anthropology
www.routledge.com/Routledge-Studies-in-Anthropology/book-series/SE0724 Distortion Social Processes Beyond the Structured and Systemic Edited by Nigel Rapport Critical Times in Greece Anthropological Engagements with Contemporary Greece Edited by Dimitris Dalakoglou and Georgos Agelopoulos An Ethnography of Global Environmentalism Becoming Friends of the Earth Caroline Gatt Linguistic and Material Intimacies of Cell Phones Edited by Joshua A. Bell and Joel C. Kuipers Hybrid Communities Biosocial Approaches to Domestication and Other Trans-species Relationships Edited by Charles Stépanoff and Jean-Denis Vigne Orthodox Christian Material Culture Of People and Things in the Making of Heaven Timothy Carroll The Diagnosis Narratives and the Healing Ritual in Western Medicine James P. Meza
Orthodox Christian Material Culture Of People and Things in the Making of Heaven Timothy Carroll
First published 2018 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2018 Timothy Carroll The right of Timothy Carroll to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Carroll, Timothy (Timothy Andrew), author. Title: Orthodox Christian material culture : of people and things in the making of heaven / Timothy Carroll. Description: New York : Routledge, 2018. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2017056713 (print) | LCCN 2018011227 (ebook) | ISBN 9781351027069 (ebook) | ISBN 9781351027052 (web pdf) | ISBN 9781351027045 (epub) | ISBN 9781351027038 (mobi/kindle) | ISBN 9781138493896 (hardback : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Material culture–Religious aspects–Orthodox Eastern Church. | Orthodox Eastern Church–England–Customs and practices. | Christianity and culture–England. | England–Religious life and customs. Classification: LCC BX747.8 (ebook) | LCC BX747.8 .C36 2018 (print) | DDC 246.088/2819–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017056713 ISBN: 978-1-138-49389-6 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-351-02706-9 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Out of House Publishing
This work is dedicated to the Cincture of the Theotokos; as a textile it has proved an excellent piece to think with.
List of figures Preface (by way of apology) Acknowledgements Notes on language usage Prologue Introduction
ix xi xv xvii xix 1
People and place
1 British Orthodoxy
2 Coming to the Orthodox temple
3 Here and there
4 Making sacred space
5 Materials of transformation
6 Materials of ikonicity
7 Becoming an ikon
9 Becoming Orthodox, making heaven
Epilogue: All Saints Barking of the Spice Rack
Diagram of St Æthelwald’s Parish Church Bibliography Glossary Index
175 176 187 192
1.1 Procession of Our Lady of Walsingham, Feast of the Annunciation 2012 2.1 St Æthelwald’s mid-Liturgy 3.1 Reliquary of the Agia Zone 3.2 Chris moving the north half of the ikonostasis out of storage 3.3 Chris fetching the epitaphios 3.4 and 3.5 Chris unrolling the rug for the festal ikon on the solea 4.1 Napkin over chalice 4.2 The Holy Table. Vested in Pascha 4.3 The antimension, open on the Holy Table 4.4 and 4.5 Fabric on the Holy Altar, showing 3D quality of textiles; Folds and movement of fabric as Fr Theophan sprinkles holy water 4.6 Directionality of Anglican sensibility compared with circularity of Orthodox procession 6.1 Diagram of Jakobson’s fourfold distinction 7.1 Esorason and exorason 7.2 Sticharion 7.3 The epitrachelion, zone, epimanikia open and tied as it would be about a wrist, and epigonation 7.4 Phelonion 7.5 Crucifix of pectoral cross (necklace) 7.6 The assembled vestments of an Orthodox priest 9.1 Ikon of the Metastasis of the Theotokos on a wall within Vatopedi’s katholikon, showing Mary handing Thomas the Holy Cincture; the Apostles look in wonder into the empty tomb 9.2 Ikon of the Agia Zone, showing Mary holding her belt, arranged in a canopied analogion in the katholikon of Vatopedi for the Feast
27 31 48 56 57 59 64 67 68 71 79 105 119 120 121 124 125 126
x Figures E.1 Mary’s under-stair ‘chapel’ E.2 A sacred bloom among the spices E.3 All Saints Barking of the Spice Rack All images are by the author.
170 171 172
Preface (by way of apology)
I imagine that there are two types of readers who may be interested in leafing through this volume, and so I will address this Preface to both. The first group is the academic community of anthropologists –other social scientists and Religious Studies scholars, perhaps, too. The second group is the reader interested in Orthodox Christianity –either as an adherent or as an inquirer. I should say that, if you are of the second type, this book may be a great disappointment. I have seen, in online chat forums and around coffee tables, extensive and detailed discussion (and critique) of social scientific work on Orthodox Christianity by Orthodox Christians. This is as it should be, and I think it is important for disciplines like Anthropology to be held critically accountable to the communities about whom we speak. I am very aware that this book may pique the interests of Orthodox readers outside the fieldsite, and Orthodox friends and informants have already asked to read this volume once it is available. It is, therefore, my first task to address this reader, who is invested for, possibly, quite personal reasons. I will then turn to address the anthropological audience. In my research, a few things concerning the rhetorical (and often poetic) manner of Orthodox Christianity struck me. Rarely is anything simple and direct; and when things appear to be so, it is almost all the more complex, as the impact of the simple directness echoes out into other spheres. Each prayer may be meditated upon; each troparion (hymn) savoured repeatedly; each word considered etymologically, historically, allegorically, and so on (but most importantly, I am reminded, prayerfully). While many examples come to mind, it might be easiest to speak here of the essence and energies distinction: God, I am told, is a being beyond being, of pure essence who emanates energies out. Existence itself is but an energy of God; and everything that exists is likewise so. In such a paradigm, it is hard not to imagine that there may be multiple parallelisms, all pointing toward and echoing each other. While on Mt Athos in 2011, I was told by His Eminence Metropolitan Boulos (Yazigi) of Aleppo1 that: 1 At the time of writing, Sayidna Boulos has been missing for four and half years, having been kidnapped at gunpoint in April 2013. He and the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop, Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo, were taken hostage together on their return from a humanitarian mission amidst the war in Syria. Their driver, a deacon, was murdered in the attack.
xii Preface In Orthodoxy everything is a symbol, vestments [clothing] are a symbol, not only those of priests, but everybody (here gesturing around at the monks and pilgrims). The simple use natural language, but the civilised: symbols, poetry. You can say ‘I love you.’ This is natural, but it means more to say it in poetry. The symbols are apophatic; God is love, yes, but he is more than that. The same symbols that we know as a child we still need as we grow, they continue to show us new things. The problem with the Orthodox today is not having symbols, but understanding them. The means are there, but they must be known. (7 August 2011, Julian Calendar) Everything is a symbol, and these are apophatic. Trying to understand and then write an argument concerning apophatic symbols is –though maybe this is simply my own limitation –quite difficult. To be honest, I am not sure Anthropology as a discipline is cut out to do it just yet. There have been calls within the discipline to address Eastern Christianity in her own terms –and this movement is something of a life project for my work. However, if I were to do this honestly, as I think it properly should be done, then the resulting piece should, I think, be modelled after the very apophatic symbolism the Church holds most dear: that is, the Paschal cycle. At some point, I hope to offer a work modelling the movement of the argument, and the topics it addressed, on the narrative movement through Lent and Pascha. This is not that work. Second, Orthodoxy grants a great privilege to the visual. Holy ikons are used in teaching, and even texts (like the Gospel) are treated at times more like paintings than text books. Anthropology, for its part, while privileging ethnographic detail (thick description), tends to shy away from some of the more impressionistic arts-like rhetorical techniques (though there are exceptions). My initial hope to use language that allowed for some of the impression, nuance and imagination seen in the hymnography of the Church has been reined in, for the sake of clarity and analytical precision. I have, however, tried to allow some of the metaleptic imagery that appears in Orthodox practice to be visible in the ethnographic passages –and hopefully these may be interesting to the Orthodox reader. I should apologise in advance, though, as handling the divine beauty of the Orthodox liturgical tradition with the hands of Anthropology is a bit like giving Grandma’s antique bone china to a toddler, mid-tantrum. Toward the end of the book, some of what Mikael Bakhtin (1984) (who himself was heavily influenced by the Divine Liturgy) calls the ‘multivoicedness’ or ‘polyphony’ of Orthodox worship is discussed. I hope I have done some justice, and allowed the Orthodox reader to see something in it that they can recognise. Third, while this thesis is derived from research that, at each stage, was done with the permission and/or blessing of the relevant priest, bishop or abbot, it has not been submitted to any Orthodox authority to be ‘vetted’. Some communities around the world do place restrictions on ethnographers concerning what can be written about them, and while certain individuals did
Preface xiii prohibit me from admitting certain things within the remits of my research, nowhere did an authority ask that any writing be edited or redacted before circulation. This means two things. First, it means that all errors concerning the nature and practice of Orthodox Christianity are solely my own. Second, it means that under no circumstances should an Orthodox reader take what is written herein as indication of Orthodox practice for the purposes of self- edification or teaching. Hopefully this will not be an issue, but I have seen evidence that suggests that in some Orthodox circles a respect for academic study and a desire to grow in one’s own personal devotion lends itself to taking social scientific accounts of Orthodoxy as a possible source of reflection and correction.2 This is not a piece of theology, and while the argument does address issues of spirituality and liturgical practice, its opinions are anthropological ones and may or may not fit within what would be deemed ‘correct’ by relevant religious authorities. That being said, I would be interested in dialogue with those knowledgeable concerning topics to which I speak, and encourage any who are interested to contact me. Now, as for the anthropological reader: The above concerns addressed to the religious reader are also pertinent here, as I would like to stress that the monograph is framed in response to a period of time in which I think Anthropology is currently situated with regard to non-Western Christianities. As I said, I would very much have liked to work with indigenous rhetorical techniques (allegory, repetition, polyphony, fluid symbolisms, and so on) in order to write a critical examination which would, as Roy Wagner suggests, ‘develop the relationship between technique and subject matter into a means of drawing self-knowledge from the understanding of others, and vice versa’ – producing a ‘self-aware (rather than a self-conscious) anthropology’ (1981:15– 16). We currently have a self- conscious Anthropology of Christianity, and as I argue (Carroll 2017d), I think we have a self-conscious Anthropology of Eastern Christianity, too. I would like to see the development of a self-aware Anthropology of both. Engaging Eastern Christianity in her own terms and engaging with indigenous theology (as is discussed in the Introduction) is the first step toward becoming self-aware. As long as we (Anthropology) do this in our own ‘explanatory models’ (Wagner 1981), however, we will never get to the ‘vice versa’ part of disciplinary self- awareness. Modelling culture (both our own and ‘theirs’) using indigenous motifs and rhetorical techniques is the way forward. It is this ability, acting as cultural translators, wherein Anthropology might finally move past a colonial instinct to ‘invent’ the native for our own well-being. This work does not do this, however, at least not to the extent I think it should. Its methodological core lays the groundwork for such a disciplinary 2 This is most common, in my experience, among convert communities, but it can also be seen on online forums and in other places of open discussion. In some ways, it is the logical outflowing of 2 Timothy 3:16 (All scripture is God-breathed, etc.), where the word ‘scripture’ simply means ‘writings’.
xiv Preface advancement, and some sections are more overt in this regard than others. Because of my conviction that Anthropology needs to move forward in how it addresses vested communities, the work is somewhat experimental. I have tried to retain some level of the polyphony within the ethnographic passages. In the argumentation, however, I have maintained an attitude of brutalism, trying to parse as clearly as possible the scaffolding necessary to articulate the conclusion –what should be a looping path (or, following Orthodox liturgics, a circle) has been rendered as near a Roman road as possible. At times, it may read in a boring manner, repetitive, and doggedly so. For this I apologise. It has almost none of the lyrical beauty that the topic deserves. I have been told3 that Clifford Geertz said ethnography is an extended explanation trying to get to grips with the first two weeks in the field. I do not know if Geertz said this or not; I have looked, but cannot find a reliable reference. To be honest, it is not important –it fits with the Orthodox practice of quoting from the Gerontikon (Writings of the Elders), saying ‘One of the Desert Fathers once …’ And so, in that spirit, I will say ‘One of the Mothers or Fathers of Anthropology once said: Ethnography is an extended explanation trying to get to grips with the first two weeks in the field.’ This book does only a fraction of that, as it works in its entirety to understand only the first two hours of fieldwork: from 9 to 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning in East London. Finally, a word to both potential types of readers: The book is written in a cumulative manner. That is, while some works are arranged such that each chapter can stand alone as its own argument, this book is laid out in a manner which, I am afraid, begins slowly, and then builds toward something interesting. This means that while the first chapter is largely theoretical (and will likely have little interest to the non-academic reader), the subsequent chapters are increasingly ethnographic. The best stuff, in my opinion, is saved for the end; but if the reader is interested in this as an academic work, the end may only make sense after trudging through the beginning and the middle. For this, also, I apologise. It is my earnest hope that you, dear reader, be you academic or religious, both or neither, enjoy what is in these subsequent pages; and, likewise, I hope that my limitations and aspirations do not stand in the way of your gain and/ or amusement. on the feast of St Cosmas the Hymnographer St Theophanes the Merciful 12 October /29 September 2017 London
3 I thank David Jeevendrampillai for sharing this word of the elders with me.
First and foremost, I thank the community of Orthodox Christians who welcomed me, without reservation, into their community, parish, and homes. A few of these individuals appear in these pages, but many others are absent for reasons of space or preference for anonymity. To name them all would sound like the list of the living and the departed said during Proskomedia. First among them, my gratitude goes to Susanna Märak-Freeman, without whom this book would not exist. Likewise, I remember Seraphim, Chris, Christina, Helena and Noel, Mary, Yanni, and Harriet –each has added to this research and has also gone out of their way to welcome me and improve the quality of my life while with them. I have great appreciation for the priest, who in these pages is called Fr Theophan Terentieff, who gave me complete access to his parish and countless hours of his valuable time and instruction. Likewise, I am deeply grateful to the archimandrite and abbot Geronda Ephraim of Vatopedi for granting me his blessing to conduct research within his monastery. Many other Orthodox Christians have helped in invaluable ways; to name but a few, my thanks to: the now Patriarch Yohanna, Metropolitan Boulos, the archimandrite Ephrem, the hieromonk Damascinos, the hieromonk Patrick, the archpriest Samir, the archpriest Gregory, the archpriest Wayne, the archpriest Michael, the priest Philip, the priest Andrew, the priest Turbo and his family, the deacon John and his wife Constantina, subdeacon Chris and his wife Anna, reader Romanos, and the brotherhood of Vatopedi and many individual brothers whom I have been asked to refer to simply as ‘a monk of Mt Athos’. The research and subsequent period(s) of writing that formed this book were conducted while at the University College London, Department of Anthropology. I am greatly indebted to Professor Susanne Küchler, who as my doctoral supervisor and Head of Department has been entirely supportive academically, professionally, and in terms of the health and well-being of both my family and me. Many colleagues at the UCL have been very generous with their time and scholarly acumen. Most notable among those who have helped me along the way, commenting on drafts and offering moral or professional support, are Aaron Parkhurst, David Jeevendrampillai, Rebecca Williams, Joanna Cook, Alex Pillen, Martin Holbraad, Ludovic Coupaye, Christopher
xvi Acknowledgements Pinney, Guilherme Orlandini Heurich, Liz Fox, Giulia Cavicchioli, and Aeron O’Connor. I am deeply indebted to Alexandra Antohin and Susanna Märak-Freeman, each of whom read and commented on this manuscript in its entirety. Their insight into Orthodoxy and dedication to this work are invaluable. Likewise, I am deeply grateful for the comments and suggested corrections that Joel Robbins and Victor Buchli offered on an early version of this work. George Tsourous and Johannes Fabian also kindly commented on sections of this manuscript in its early stages. My research and writing were made possible, most notably, by my wife’s constant support. The research was also funded by the Paleologos Graduate Scholarship of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; a Graduate School Studentship from UCL; the Pasold PhD Grant from the Pasold Fund; and a very generous grant from an anonymous donor. The final writing and editing of the manuscript were accomplished through funding from the British Academy. Finally, and most importantly, I thank my family. My mother and father taught me how to think and write, how to be a student and lifelong learner, and that intellectual excellence and religious practice need not be enemies. My godparents opened to me the beauty of the Liturgy. My children are my anchor, keeping me from going insane, as their kisses and cuddles are far more pleasurable and important than intellectual pursuits. My wife, above everyone else, has been a self-less supporter of my work from the start, and has been in every way an encouragement and help. These, and countless others, I thank. The errors, and shortfalls, are entirely my own craftsmanship.
Notes on language usage
Orthodox Christian terminology as it appears in the English language is not standardised. Various communities and individuals give precedence to connotative meanings from Greek, Arabic, and Church Slavonic –among others – ‘original’ languages. As much as possible, I follow the most commonly used terms as I witnessed them in the fieldsite in East London and the Monastery of Vatopedi, respectively. In cases where I feel the variety of terms used is, or even might be considered by the reader, to have analytical purchase, I have sought to indicate the range of terms used. As these words, though looking foreign to an outside eye, are used in common English among my informants, I have chosen not to italicise them. They are English words, and as such, italicisation in this context seems a tacit exoticisation. English- speaking Orthodox Christians are also not entirely consistent in their choice of terminology. Some favour one language of origin (e.g. Greek or Russian), while others draw from several source contexts. Some are happy to use English (or Latin) equivalents. Often multiple language origins will be paired together in what appears to be an idiosyncratic manner. There is, however, usually a good reason for the idiosyncrasy. Sometimes one word has a better connotative meaning, or sometimes it points to the specific tradition from which the speaker has gained their Orthodoxy. For example, while some communities are content to call the Feast of the Resurrection ‘Easter’, others make a point of using the term ‘Pascha’ as a means to differentiate the Feast of Feasts from what they have seen it become (bunnies, chocolate, etc.) in Western Christian and secular contexts. In some cases, such as in my principal fieldsite in East London, the same individuals would use ‘Lent’ (from the old English word for ‘Spring’) and pair it with ‘Pascha’, thus mixing etymological sources. In keeping the usage true to the research subjects, this present work preserves this mixture. The other general issue concerning technical language is the transliteration of Greek into the Latin alphabet. In most cases I have followed convention as I saw it in the field. This means that at times a spelling is used that, by a classicist’s standards, is ‘incorrect’. The exception to the privileging of spellings in most common usage is the use of ‘k’ rather than ‘c’ in the ethnographic context of ikonography.
xviii Notes on language usage When using icon/ikon as an ethnographic term, I privilege spelling that uses the ‘k’; hence, the use of ‘ikon’ and ‘ikonographer’, and so on. This is done for a number of reasons. First, it is true to the fact that Greek has no ‘c’, and these words are spelled using the kappa (εικον, ikon). Second, using ‘ikon’ allows me to differentiate easily from ‘icon’, as it appears, for example, in Peircean semiotics. As the (religious) ikon is taken as an analytical model within the book, this distinction is useful, and the variant in spelling helps avoid cumbersome differentiation. It is also worth noting that while ‘ikon’ is not the most common spelling in English Orthodoxy, it is not uncommon. Following the practice of my informants, first names are used almost exclusively. Particularly in the case of monastics and clergy, family names are rarely given and when written usually appear as parenthetic. Saints are often referred to by many names. This is particularly true of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In most cases, as is the practice in the primary fieldsite of St Æthelwald’s, I refer to her as ‘the Theotokos’ (lit. the one who bore God). In the secondary fieldsite of Vatopedi, however, she is most often spoken of as ‘Panagia’ (lit. All-Holy). In some cases, she has a specific name associated with an apparition or ikon of her. In these cases, I privilege the specific name, and provide a translation. This is also true of Jesus, who is almost exclusively referred to as ‘Christ’, but also appears commonly as ‘the Pantokrator’ (lit. All-powerful, or Ruler of All and implying Judge). A glossary of ethnographic terms is provided at the back of this book, as is a diagram of the temple. Following the suggestion of Susanna Märak- Freeman, who helped compile and correct the glossary, I have included some anthropological terms within the glossary. While the glossary was originally conceived to be of Orthodox Christian terminology, she pointed out that the book uses many technical terms which a general anthropological reader would know, but other readers may not. As such, in cases where the specific meaning of a technical term is not given in the text, I have tried to offer a general definition in the glossary. The feminine pronoun, ‘she/her’, is used as the gender-neutral third-person singular except when speaking of clergy (who are all male) and the population (monastic and pilgrim) on Mt Athos (who are likewise all male). ‘She/ her’ is also used to refer to the Orthodox Church, who is personified as a feminine entity (the Bride of Christ). This use follows informants’ speech, wherein the Orthodox Church is almost exclusively referred to using the feminine pronoun. In most places, Βατοπαιδίου (the name of the monastery in which some of my research was carried out on Mt Athos) is rendered ‘Vatopedi’, as it is commonly found; in places, however, it is rendered ‘Vatopaidi’ in order to reflect the spelling found in specific published resources.
Dressed in scarlet and gold, holding aloft a copper-gilt chalice and plate veiled in white brocade, the priest steps out past the ikons of Jesus Christ, Mary his mother, John the Forerunner,1 and the 6th-century English abbot St Æthelwald. Before him, in procession, a young man in his early twenties, sporting a scruffy beard, holds a candle; he is dressed in a blue sticharion, or tunic, which hangs down to the floor. As he begins to process around the inside of the church building, the light catches the delicate detail in the woven pattern: roundels, crosses, and along the hem and cuff the silver galloon, or metallic lace ribbon, glistens in the morning light. Behind him, an older gentleman, on the shorter side with Mediterranean features, holds aloft a gilt crucifix within a sunburst motif atop a long wooden pole. The burnished copper of the cruciform emblem likewise catches the light of the candle and the morning sun; the sunburst motif reflects the light in whose likeness it was made. Next, a man of medium height, crowned with silver-grey hair and with a well-trimmed beard, holds a censer in his right hand. He is vested as a subdeacon in a sticharion and matching stole of rich vermillion –almost iridescent orange at times, as the light catches and plays with the subtle shimmer of silk and gold thread woven in stiff brocade. His censer sings, as the copper is ornamented with bells along each of the three chains holding the ornate orb; as he swings the censer, the chiming rhythm of each pendular swing accompanies a plume of incense, sweet with the scent of myrrh and rose. It is in the cloud of perfumed smoke that the priest steps. Standing only slightly taller than the subdeacon, the priest has jet-black hair flecked with grey, and a goatee that belies the coming of age with silver strands. His scarlet robes rest around his shoulders, trailing down below his calves; these, woven with gold thread, melt between deep carmine and a warm sanguine red. As if to annotate the shimmer of the silken threads, the gold is woven in undulating patterns of interlocking vines, creating roundels, each holding an equilateral cross. Beneath the woven gold galloon, his other
1 John the Baptist, more commonly known as the Forerunner in Orthodox contexts.
xx Prologue vestments can be seen: a stole emblazoned with golden crosses, a cotton sticharion edged with bullion fringe (each little twist dancing as he walks, as if in song), and other layers –each glistening in reds and golds, trimmed with galloon and edged with tassels and fringe. His arms are raised, held in a cross-shape, with right arm over left. In his right hand, he holds a copper-gilt chalice. In the left, he holds a plate, but under the white silk veil only the pedestal is visible. The chalice and plate are each covered in matching white silk, woven with –not quite silver, but maybe white gold –thread; they are, like the priest, trimmed with bullion fringe. Across the shoulders of the priest, atop the scarlet, is a third white veil. As the light glistens, the double-headed eagle of the Eastern Roman Empire shimmers in the white. Behind him, falling into procession, comes another server, holding aloft a burnished copper fan; on its face is, in bas-relief, the form of the six-winged seraph. The procession moves around the northern interior wall, and, once at the back, turns to face the east; each member of the congregation turns, too, following with their posture the veiled gifts held aloft by the priest. Above the canticle of bells, the priest intones prayers, and in antiphon the people sing asking for mercy. In slow cadence the candle makes its grand circular movement, and as it passes the people line the aisle and bow their heads. As the priest passes, the people bow, cross themselves, and many take a knee or bend down in a low bow. After crossing themselves, many kiss their fingers and extend their right hands toward the priest. They touch the hem of the priest’s garment, or caress the supple folds of shimmering silk. Having touched the soft textile, they cross themselves again and stand upright, watching the priest, arrayed in glistening and undulating fabric, move solemnly forward amidst the sounds, smells, and light of Orthodox devotion.
This book is about the material culture of Eastern Orthodox Christian worship. While I take into its ethnographic remit a wide milieu of materials, I am chiefly concerned with fabric. The book now held in your hands seeks, in its simplest form, to answer the simple question ‘What is fabric?’ in an Eastern Orthodox Christian context. In seeking to understand fabric, I investigate what fabric does, how it does so, and why Orthodox Christians choose to deploy fabric in the manner they do. In answering this question, new insight is gained into the socio-religious use of textiles, the performance and artful production of the self as ikon, and –maybe most controversially –the making of heaven. In order to understand the qualities of fabric as a material and experiential thing within the life-worlds of Orthodox Christians, I address fabric within the context of wider material culture and religious practice. As such, by asking ‘What, how, and why fabric?’ this book offers two interlocked conclusions. The first is a conclusion concerning the nature of Orthodox Christian engagement with materiality. The second is a specific statement concerning the necessity of fabric in the formation of Orthodox Christian persons and the formation of sacred space. Taken together, this book argues that Orthodox Christian use of fabric optimises indexical qualities inherent in the material as a necessary component within the continual production of the religious self as art-like subjects within an ongoing process of making heaven. In framing this discussion, I situate my argument principally within two otherwise unrelated sets of literature. The first is the Anthropology of Eastern Christianity. I have written elsewhere (Carroll 2017d) positioning the investigation of Eastern Christianity against (and within) the wider context of the Anthropology of Christianity. In this work, I am principally concerned only with the advancement of the ethnographic enquiry into Eastern Christianity, exploring the methodological approach outlined in my earlier work. This approach, namely, engaging Eastern Christians in their own terms, frames the overarching methodology of this work. The second set of literature with which I engage, and from which I draw most heavily in terms of the theoretical purchase of this work, is that of the Anthropology of Art and material culture theory. I address these now.
Orthodoxy and materiality In the introduction to their co-edited volume on Eastern Christianity, Chris Hann and Hermann Goltz (2010) gave a call for Anthropology to address Eastern Christianities in their own terms. There are a number of ways this call could be interpreted; however, one key quality of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which had at the time been left largely unexplored (cf Hanganu 2010; Hann 2014), is its materiality. In this book, ‘material’ is taken to be any substance (thing, object, etc.) that can be engaged by and within society; as Ingold says, ‘I can touch the rock, whether of a cave wall or of the ground underfoot, and can thereby gain a feel for what rock is like as a material’ (2007:7, emphasis in original). However, while Ingold discredits the term ‘materiality’ because he ‘cannot touch’ it (ibid.), Tilley (2007) acutely marks the difference between the human appraisal of the material and the material’s impact on the human. In his response to Ingold’s (2007) article, Tilley defines the space of materiality of the rock to be the ‘human significance [of the rock] put into a much broader social and historical context’ (2007:17). In this way, ‘material’ has a social quality, and its ‘materiality’ is the social quality of that material. As such, materiality can be seen as something extending beyond the material, possibly unperceivable. Pinney, in his excellent problematisation of the concept of materiality, suggests that ‘ “materiality” might be defined as that (figural) excess, or supplementarity, which can never be encompassed by linguistic- philosophical closure’ (2005:266). Rather than advocating the use of purified categories (e.g. subject/object), Pinney suggests that materiality, or ‘figural excess’ (ibid.:269), is an aspect of objects with ‘torque’ (ibid.:268). Pinney uses ‘torque’ to suggest that objects (and images) have the ability to turn in unanticipated ways. These notions of material and materiality are developed throughout this book; this initial definition –such that materials are any substance (thing, object, image, etc.) that exists within the social sphere, and materiality is the figural excess by which the substance may impact society – sets the stage for the subsequent discussion of art-like1 objects and their place in society. The roles of materials and the social impact of materiality are often apparent, but rarely made explicit in much classic work on Christianity. In Western Christianity, in particular, an emphasis on ‘word’ is often given greater importance. However, many classic ethnographies of peoples in Orthodox Christian contexts highlight how the religious practice is not entirely like 1 NB Gell uses ‘art-like’ as a loose category, implying that he refers to any ‘thing’ that may be construed (by any of a number of definitions) as like ‘art’. He uses it as a segue to introduce ‘index’ (1998:13), which I discuss more fully in due course. I find the ambiguity of ‘art-like’ useful and retain the idea of objects and situations being ‘art-like’. The term is connotative of intentional production, acquired and skilled craft, and something that may be considered beautiful or provocative.
Introduction 3 the forms of Christianity with which the ethnographers are familiar. John Campbell’s work among the Sarakatsani, a semi-nomadic people in Greece, notes that morning prayer for many men is simply to stand in front of the household ikons and cross oneself (1964:341). No words are spoken. This non-discursive mode of religiosity stands in marked contrast to the emphasis on ‘the word’ seen elsewhere in global Christianity (Carr 2013; Harding 1987, 2000; Keane 2007; Malley 2004a, b; Strhan 2013).2 As will be explored at length throughout this book, I am keen to grant image and material presence a greater focus in their own right, rather than as reducible to meaning. The qualities of touch, sight, and position toward and within sacred objects and space that are exemplified in the Sarakatsani man’s daily devotion before the ikon with a simple gaze and gestured prayer is corroborated elsewhere within ethnography of Greek Christianity. Jill Dubisch, in her work on pilgrimage to the site of a miracle-working ikon of Mary, Panagia Evangelistria of Tinos (The All-Holy Bringer of Good News), notes that Greek Orthodoxy is a ‘tactile and sensual religion’ (1995:61; see also Grünbart et al. 2007). Her account of the Tinos pilgrimage repeatedly describes use of tactile and haptic engagement within the religious devotion of Tinos natives and pilgrims. Her description shows a continuum of materialities with which these Orthodox Christians engage: this includes obvious aspects such as sacred objects (e.g. ikons and the holy shrine of Our Lady), but also extends to broader architectural features (e.g. chapels around the island and the pilgrim’s road) and even wider environmental features (e.g. the sea, the hills). While many of the sensuous aspects of Orthodoxy have a familiar ring with descriptions of vernacular Catholicism (Brandes 1980, 2007; Orsi 2002, 2005; Taylor 1995; Tweed 1999; Whitehead 2008, 2011) and broader American Christianity (see McDannell 1998), there is concerted effort in Roman Catholic internal politics to mark a distinction between sanctioned and proper Catholicism and folk devotional practices (Haas 2007; Mosse 2006; Orsi 2005). These movements by the Roman Curia to instil what might be called the ‘great tradition’ (following Redfield’s  distinction, contra folk or ‘little tradition’) of Catholicism are often geared toward the abandonment of the sensual sides of Christian devotion. These tensions between ‘great’ and ‘little’ traditions (Redfield 1952) are not a significant factor in Orthodox Christianity. This is not to say that Orthodoxy is a homogeneous whole, but rather that Dubisch’s description of ‘tactile and sensuous’ rings true far beyond the Greek Orthodoxy she witnessed. For example, du Boulay (2009:21–22) highlights the fact that what she describes of Orthodoxy in a Greek island village will be similar to many aspects of Orthodoxy across the Balkans and Russia. Likewise, the Orthodoxy discussed 2 It is worth noting that Eric Hoenes del Pinal (2011) makes a somewhat similar argument concerning the emphasis on language ideologies in the Anthropology of Christianity, saying that the focus on ‘word’ occludes communicative aspects such as gesture. Hoenes del Pinal’s focus is nonetheless lexical and discursive.
4 Introduction in this book, though situated in a highly urban Antiochian parish in London, may be noticeably similar to Orthodoxy elsewhere.3 One key aspect of the Orthodoxy discussed in this book, and corroborated by Dubisch, du Boulay, and other authors, both within the Orthodox tradition (both lay and clerical) and without, marks the opulent nature of Orthodox materiality. In narratives of Orthodox Christianity, a number of sensory qualities tend to be recurrent, including an emphasis on the visual impact of high levels of lighting contrast (i.e. dimly lit temples versus bright shafts of light from windows); the ‘overwhelming’ presence of images; distinct and pungent odours of incense; continuous musical chant –often in a key unfamiliar to a Western ear; and beautiful liturgical fabrics. These motifs are all common aspects of narrations of initial impressions (Mathewes- Green 2006; Ugolnik 1989; Ware 1993 ). This was, however, not the case upon first entering the parish of St Æthelwald’s, as I have taken to calling it.4 Following the advice of an Orthodox Christian friend, I arrived on my first Sunday at St Æthelwald’s at 8 a.m. The doors were locked. I returned at 9 a.m. to find the grounds-keeper, whom I will call Harvey, unlocking the doors. He let me in, and I waited. At that point in the morning, St Æthelwald’s parish church is not an Orthodox Christian space; it is a Church of England parish, which, due to its urban location, only hosts mid-week services and choral events. It is, as buildings in the surrounding area of east London go, a beautiful building of significant history. Over the subsequent two hours, parishioners began to arrive, and slowly the transformation was made from an Anglican parish church into an Orthodox Christian temple. The fact that the parish, as one informant called it, ‘plays church-in-a-box’, whereby they must each week set up the ritual paraphernalia necessary for Orthodox worship, is a central problematic with which this work engages. In the course of ethnographic fieldwork, a productive tension emerged between this problematic and fabric, as each pointed 3 Though it is important to note, as elaborated more fully in due course, that the temporary nature of the parish radically contrasts with the physical permanency of Orthodoxy in most ‘home land’ contexts. Eastern Christianity in the West does bear a unique, and some would say anomalous, quality. 4 It is worth noting that this is a pseudonym I chose for the community. Those in the community, and the priest in particular, were ambivalent as to the use and choice of pseudonym. Whereas I have chosen to use people’s first names in many cases (often their taken saint’s name, in fact), I decided it was important to give the parish a pseudonym. This is for two reasons. The first is that St Æthelwald’s no longer exists as it is described. While it is still recognizably the same, no reader should go looking for this parish hoping to find this same place. Parishioners have come and gone, clergy has changed, and so on. The second reason relates to the fact that some members of the parish community asked me to leave them out of it. As such, while everything in these pages is factual, not everything factual is in these pages; giving a pseudonym offers one (albeit easily circumvented) hedgerow of privacy. I chose this name specifically because while it is an historical English name, it is not that of a saint. Instead, it is a portmanteau of the 7th-century sainted siblings Æthelburga (founding abbess of Barking Abbey) and Erkenwald (bishop of London).
Introduction 5 my attention back to the other. In examining the transformations made while ‘play[ing] church-in-a-box’, I was pointed to fabric; in examining the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of fabric, I was pointed to the transformation accomplished by fabric. The transformation from a ‘mundane’ space of a ‘heterodox’ (that is, not-Orthodox) edifice to the sacred space of an Orthodox temple is, as Chapters 3 and 4 will unpack in detail (see also Carroll 2017a), accomplished primarily by the placement of a single piece of fabric –the antimension (lit. ‘instead of table’). And while a retinue of things are positioned in order to have the images, sounds, smells –the sensuous tactility characteristic of Orthodox worship –it is the placement of the antimension that articulates the space as sacred. Before examining what the cloth antimension does, Chapter 2 follows the movements of parishioners as they arrive on a Sunday morning, coming into the temple and moving out from it. The subsequent chapters, as will be outlined in more detail at the end of this introductory one, unpack the functional role of fabric as it relates to the person. In so doing, each aspect of fabric also helps unpack the central social problematic of why such a disparate group of people (as will be shown ethnographically in Part I) come each week to participate in the St Æthelwald’s parish community. The transformation of place and the transformations of person are both articulated by fabric in key ways. This book unpacks the material agencies by which this is achieved and works with indigenous understandings of parishioners’ own religious practice in order to explain the motivations behind their weekly trek from (as Chapter 2 discusses) up to two hours away in order to make a temple in the middle of an urban metropolis.
Gellian scholarship In making my argument, I draw heavily upon the works of Alfred Gell (1976, 1992a, b, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2013), particularly his Art and Agency (1998). In using Gellian theory, however, I move beyond current interpretation of his theoretical framework –specifically in terms of the indexical qualities of persons and materials, and issues of multiple prototypicality. Since his passing in 1997, and the posthumous publication of his final book, there have been two conference-cum-edited-volumes dedicated to engaging with Alfred Gell’s life work on art. The first is co-edited by Christopher Pinney and Nicholas Thomas (2001), the second by Liana Chua and Mark Elliott (2013). In both volumes, a number of contributing authors each comment on the ambiguity apparent in Gell’s work, one contributor to the second volume going as far as to say ‘It seems that we all have our own Alfred Gell’, each with different interpretation (Born 2013:130). The ‘demanding’ (Thomas 1998:xiii) nature of Art and Agency as a text, and the breadth of what Gell proposes, has allowed a wide and varied application of his theory. Many of these applications, again as is exemplified in the contributions to these two volumes, apply Gell’s theories outside the context to which he expressly stated they applied. By his own account, in Art and Agency he is ‘only interested in
6 Introduction visual art’ (Gell 1998:34); this does not keep people, however, from applying his theoretical framework to sound (Born 2005, 2013; Keen 2001; Weiner 2001), text (Boutcher 2013), and performance (Hirsch 2013). Taken in the context of a widespread use and experimentation with Gellian theory in areas he may not have originally intended, the non-standard application of Gell in this book is quite standard (Thomas 2001:3). For the most part, this book is concerned primarily with the visual –though ikons and fabric are both seen and touched –and, as will be discussed shortly, these material registers are, in this book, argued to have certain ‘excesses’ (Pinney 2005) that lend themselves more to the immaterial. The argument herein contained also follows Gell’s interest in the visual not as some separate form of language; instead, art is either ‘a system of action’ or, when containing meaning, is part of natural language (Gell 1998:6). He says: Visual art objects are objects about which we may, and commonly do, speak –but they themselves either do not speak, or they utter natural language in graphemic code. We talk about objects, using signs, but art objects are not, except in special cases, signs themselves, with ‘meanings’; and if they do have meanings, then they are part of language (i.e. graphic signs) not a separate ‘visual’ language.’ (ibid., emphasis in original) This distinction and Gell’s emphasis on the non-linguistic (action) aspect of art objects are critical to an understanding of Orthodox materiality. As will be seen most explicitly in the Orthodox holy ikon, objects may be both rich with meaning (I was told ikons were ‘visual theology’) and also social beings that do things. This book also develops two aspects of Gellian thought addressed only briefly in his Art and Agency, and carries on a line of argument concerning the role of materials he never seems to make explicitly, though it has been made by other scholars working closely with (and critiquing) his framework. It is these three aspects of Gellian thought to which the section now turns. The prototype The first aspect outlined briefly by Gell, but taken and developed extensively in this book, is that of multiple prototypes relating to a single art index. Gell defines the prototypes as ‘entities held, by abduction, to be represented in the index, often by virtue of visual resemblance, but not necessarily’ (1998:27)5. 5 If the reader is familiar with Peircean semiotics, then it may be helpful to note Layton’s (2003) observation that Gell introduces the term ‘prototype’ to replace Peirce’s term ‘object’. I find it reasonable to assume Gell made this switch to avoid confusion between Peircean ‘object’ (as source of signage) and the quotidian sense of ‘object’ (a thing or artefact in relation to a subject) used in Anthropology of Art and material culture studies.
Introduction 7 This is one aspect of a four-part ‘art nexus’ wherein the piece of art or any art- like object (index), the human producer (artist), the human viewer (recipient), and the inspiration or formal model (prototype) are each held together through abductive relationships (ibid.). Gell takes abduction from the philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce via the work of Umberto Eco, and quotes Eco’s definition, saying: Abduction … is a tentative and hazardous tracing of a system of signification rules which allow the sign to acquire its meaning …. [it] occurs with those natural signs which the Stoics called indicative and which are thought to be signs, yet without knowing what they signify. (Eco 1984:40 as in Gell 1998:14) Gell has little to no interest in the longer history of this term or how it fits within the philosophy and semiotics of Peirce and Eco. Instead, abduction takes on the utmost central role in holding together the four elements (index, artist, recipient, prototype) of the art nexus. In Gell’s use, with his emphasis on art as action, abduction takes on a specific connotation of the intuitive inference of relation, and is seen to be the means by which a person, seeing a work of art, understands intuitively (abduces) that the piece was painted intentionally by some artist and was modelled, for example, after the French King. Seeing the painting, and abducing the image of the King, would then cause a particular response from the viewer. What that response might be would depend on the social relations between the French King and the viewer. A loyal subject may bow; a revolutionary may slash the image; an American tourist in the Louvre may laugh at his knickers. In each case, however, Gell would say that the visual encounter with an object allows the viewer to abduce that the object is in fact an art object, or ‘index’, having a relationship of causation with an artist and a relationship of representation to the prototype. In discussing how recipients and artists may engage with the same art index in different ways, Gell introduces the idea that there may be more than one prototype in a given art-like object.6 He gives the example of Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus, which, in 1914, was slashed by Mary Richardson, a ‘suffragette artist’ (1998:62ff). In Richardson’s art production of ‘Slashed’ Rokeby Venus, Gell identifies the prototypical relationship to the Roman goddess Venus as well as one to the artist’s fellow suffragette, Mrs Pankhurst, who was at the time on hunger strike in prison. Richardson’s official statement, which was printed in the press at the time, explains her choice of the Venus, likening her, as the most beautiful woman in mythological history, to Mrs Pankhurst, ‘the most beautiful character in modern history’, and her destruction of the image to the government’s destruction of Mrs Pankhurst (in The 6 In case this needs clarification: Gell’s use of ‘prototype’ allows a relation of the many prototypes to the one object/index, an inversion of the usual relation of one design prototype to multiple reproductions.
8 Introduction Times 1914). As such, there is a double prototype wherein, as Gell says, ‘Mrs Pankhurst (=) Venus’ (1998:65 Fig. 4.4/4). Richardson’s act of destructive art-making linked two unrelated images into a relationship of metaphoric equality, linking one prototype to another. Such an action produces a certain ‘excess of meaning’ (Buchli 2013:168), which, as Buchli points out in discussing Gell’s argument, makes the image –linked now in a chain with another –a more powerful image than the original Rokeby Venus (Buchli 2013:169; Gell 1998:64). This notion of multiple prototypicality, when taken in a religious setting, presents a means by which anthropologists can understand how two witnesses may derive from the same visual sensoria two radically different, and even opposed, abductions of agency. Speaking of such a situation, though from a different theoretical perspective, Jean-Pierre Warnier notes: ‘An atheist and a Catholic who would sit together in a church would perceive the same material objects, bodies and substances, but not the same “reality” ’ (2007:19). Allowing for the possibility of multiple ‘realities’, of which any given object may be an index, is a key analytical component of the argument laid out in this book. The possibility of the collapse of Mrs Pankhurst into Venus, or Christ into bread and wine, is an important possibility; and, as Buchli emphasises, the slashed painting is a more powerful possibility than the original. As will be developed in Chapters 3 and 5, such possibilities help in the transformation of place and person, and the consequential making of heaven. Human indices The second movement forward with Gell’s theory is applying his theory not only to art-like objects, but also to art-like subjects. Gell’s theory ‘resolutely plant[s]the British flag, boldly emblazoned with “social anthropology” upon the contested ground’ of ‘art’ (Campbell 2001:119). In so doing, he articulates art to be an issue of ‘social agency’ –a coupling of terms he finds redundant (Gell 1998:17), as all agency is, in his understanding, derived primarily from human persons in relation. As it plays out in society, a social agent is someone (or something) who (which) is ‘seen’ to cause certain sequences (ibid.:16). It is worth noting here that the driving force is not intention and causation but, rather, the abduction of intention. In other words, the perception of intention on the part of the recipient of action is what determines the next course of social interaction (if my pet plant dies, I will be sad; if I think my cat killed it, I will be mad). As such, things (an unproblematised term for Gell, but generally used to be ‘not people’7) may have agency of their own –but only as a secondary function granted by the abductive relation (ibid.:18). He, 7 Gell does, however, class ‘animals’ as separate (1998:18) and qualifies that ‘thing’ should be ‘understood to be real, physical things, unique and identifiable, not performances, readings, reproductions, etc.’ (1998:13). I take a broader view, such that ‘thing’ may also be applied to concepts; in this book, I use ‘object’ for the more narrow Gellian artefactual thing.
Introduction 9 consequently, derives a system of social anthropology wherein people and things are both equally present and participant in social relations. He grants that indices may be social agents (e.g. ibid.:32), and also that human beings may be indices (ibid.:150ff). In recognising that people may be indices, he focuses on a case study examining how young virgin girls in India are transformed into a kumari – an embodiment of the goddess Durga (Gell 1998:150). Following the course of the selection, enrobing, and painting of the young girl, Gell concludes by saying: In short, there is little to differentiate the consecration of the kumari from the consecration of any other idol, except that the kumari can walk, and talk, and is in fact incarnate as a human being rather than a manufactured artefact. From the point of view of the anthropology of art, as outlined in this work, there is an insensible transition between ‘works of art’ in artefact form and human beings: in terms of the positions they may occupy in the network of human social agency, they may be regarded as almost entirely equivalent. (ibid.:152–153) This book follows the same line of thought, looking at the priest’s representation of Christ to the congregation (Chapter 7) and also building a case whereby all Orthodox Christians may be best understood as art-like indices (Chapters 5 and 6). Material agency The third vector that this book follows closely is one that is not quite developed in Gell’s work, but can be seen in nascent form within it; that is, the role of material qualities within the social agencies of the art nexus. Gell’s appreciation for the role of materials can be most clearly seen in his writings concerning ‘cognitive stickiness’, which he defines as the quality of an index able to create ‘blockage in the cognitive process of reconstructing the intentionality embodied in artefacts’ (1998:86, emphasis added). Developing his ideas of enchantment (1992b) and art as traps (1996), in Art and Agency he describes, using a number of examples, the ways in which, because of the artist’s masterful use of the materials, the viewer is able to abduce the greatness of the artist, but not quite figure out how such masterful workmanship was achieved. Sometimes this mastery is a formal aspect, such as with Indian rice- flour kolam (1998:84ff), which are geometric figures traced out on the ground in front of homes and temples early in the morning by women. These kolam are often traced in one continuous flow of the hand, such that the woman lets a small trail of rice flour leave a looping pattern in front of the doorstep. Kolam are apotropaic motifs (designed to protect against evil), and as such are literally traps, designed to confuse passing demons and prevent them from
10 Introduction entering the home or temple. In such cases, the cognitive stickiness of the index is primarily a formal quality of the motif as the artist has laid it upon the ground. However, in other cases there appears to be a more influential role of the material. In summarising his previous work on enchantment and captivation –which he defines as ‘the demoralization produced by the spectacle of unimaginable virtuosity’ (1998:71, emphasis added) –in Trobriand Kula canoe prow-boards, Gell says: The raw material of the work (wood) can be inferred from the finished product, and the basic technical steps –carving and painting; but not the critical path of specific technical processes along the way which actually effect the transformation from raw material to finished product. (ibid.:71–72, emphasis added) While the material is evident, the technical expertise is demonstrated yet impenetrable, producing captivation. Even without a clear statement concerning the role of materiality, three things emerge from his prolonged argumentation. These are held in the words ‘virtuosity’, ‘inferred’, and ‘embodied in’. Together they form the basis of an understanding of material indexicality that is further developed in this book. In using ‘virtuosity’, Gell is drawing on early work in the Anthropology of Art by Franz Boas (1955). Working in a wide, pan-Pacific rim cross- comparative context, Boas provides the notion of ‘technical virtuosity’, characterised by the ‘beauty of form, the evenness of texture’ (ibid.:17) acquired ‘through constant practice’ (ibid.:18); such that ‘Virtuosity, complete control of technical process, however, means an automatic regularity of movement’ (ibid.:20). The technical, creative artist forms beautiful craft through the methodical and systematic deployment of specific technique. Virtuosity becomes a quality of the object, however (ibid.:21), and artefacts lacking this ‘regularity of form and surface pattern’ are deemed by Boas to be ‘meagre’ and ‘lacking in skill’ (ibid.:22). While later readers may cringe at the aesthetics-based judgements in Boas’ deployment of the idea of virtuosity, his attention to the systematic deployment of specific techniques as skilled creation opens to the Anthropology of Art the necessity of including the particle elements within a wider corpus. The scalar relationship between particle element and wider corpus is important both within one piece, as particle segments build off each other to compose the whole, and between the various particle artefacts within a cultural frame (something important to Gell’s understanding of the œuvre of an artist, and the development of Gell’s notion of the extended mind [1998:221ff]). Of particular importance here is the aspect of virtuosity that included, for Boas, the mastery of materials. When speaking of basketry among First Nations Peoples, he says: Virtuosity, complete control of technical processes, however, means an automatic regularity of movement. The basketmaker who manufactures
Introduction 11 a coiled basket, handles the fibres composing the coil in such a way that the greatest evenness of coil diameter results. In making her stitches the automatic control of the left hand that lays down the coil, and of the right that pulls the binding stitches over the coil brings it about that the distances between the stitches and the strength of the pull are absolutely even so that the surface will be smooth and evenly rounded and that the stiches show a perfectly regular pattern, – in the same way as an experienced seamstress will make her stitches at regular intervals and with even pull, so that they lie like beads on a string. The same observation may be made in twined basketry. In the handiwork of an expert the pull of the woof string will be so even that there is no distortion of the warp strings and the twisted woof will lie in regularly arranged loops. Any lack of automatic control will bring about irregularities of surface pattern. (Boas 1955:20) The apprehendable quality of virtuosity, then, arises in an object when the artist is able to manipulate the materials in specific ways, capitalising on specific desirable qualities inherent in the raw material. Virtuosity, then, can also be seen to be a visual and tactile quality of surfaces made such by capitalising on specific qualities of the material. Such a view, wherein artists and materials work together to produce the end design, is not particularly novel, yet a great variety comes into focus when taken in comparison to other perspectives on the working relationship between person and material. A great champion of the active role of materiality is Tim Ingold. His work on textility argues that rather than looking at the subject/object relationship in the process of making, it would be more appropriate to see people and things ‘possessed by the action’, together, rather than attribute agency to one or both parties (2010:95). For Ingold, ‘thing’ is a specific choice to avoid ‘object’. In ‘object’, he sees a dead ‘thing’; ‘the thing about things’, he writes, ‘is that far from standing before us as a fait accompli, complete in itself, each is a “going on” –or better, a place where several goings on become entwined’ (ibid.:96). Ingold is not alone in his critique of Gell on the point of agency. Howard Morphy (2009), in his critical review of Gell’s final book, outlines a number of dissenting views, and adds his own critique to the discussion. But, while both Ingold and Morphy take Gell to task over the issue of agency, they do so for antipodal reasons. Morphy, for his part, argues that, save in the possible worlds of cyberspace and artificial intelligence, ‘objects do not change themselves’ (ibid.:6). Taking Gell to task for implying that objects may have their own intention, Morphy rejects the idea that things can do things. For his part, he feels it is necessary to maintain within anthropological discourse on art the role of symbolism and aesthetics (but denies that this thereby implies ‘reading’ objects for discursive meaning [ibid.:9, 15]). There is, as exemplified with Ingold and Morphy, a continuum of critique of Gell on this point. Some (like Ingold) say not enough credit is
12 Introduction given to material things; some (like Morphy) say Gell grants them too much credit. Another response to Gell exists, however, in the work of Susanne Küchler. In her work on Cook Island quilts, she links the ontic (what something is) to the epistemic (what knowledge it elicits), arguing that cloth (both on and off the body) ‘is uniquely capable of elucidating ideas about who we are and how we should behave’ because threads ‘are a frame for ideas whose enduring effects belie fibre’s frequently ephemeral nature’ (Küchler 2005:189). Speaking of the shredded and stitched fabric of the tivaivai (quilt), she says: The material resonance of such shredded and restitched cloth with death and ideas of renewal shows most clearly that the iconic and the indexical is not just ascribed to generic cloth things, but is an intrinsic part of the fibrous, fragile, and transformative property of cloth made from introduced cotton which shrinks, tears and yet can be reassembled in ever differing ways. (ibid.:176, emphasis in original) Pointing out the implications of qualities and potential affordances inherent in materials (2008, 2010), Küchler’s work (both specifically in materials and design and in more ‘traditional’ ethnographic locations) places a strong emphasis on the serendipitous, even comical, social repercussions of the effective qualities of materials and things. Her research into Cook Island quilts (2003, 2005; Küchler and Eimke 2009) demonstrates how the unique materiality of fabric enables it to work in unique ways within a cultural logic, demonstrating cosmological and epistemological operations. The fabric of the quilts, for example, is ephemeral, not colour-fast, and easily torn. It can be manipulated, perfumed, folded, and moved; each of these aspects –as I discuss more fully elsewhere (Carroll 2017b) –lends itself toward being linked with images of life cycles, the dead, genealogical production, and the home. In this aspect of Küchler’s work, what is paraphrased in this book as the indexical qualities inherent in the material harkens back to Gell’s work –specifically the two remaining terms (‘inferred’ and ‘embodied in’) highlighted earlier. Gell’s framework relies heavily on the work of inference of qualities embodied in art-like objects. Küchler borrows his indexical language and reiterates the idea that the qualities in the thing allow distinct (abductive or inferential) modes of thought. In the movement from Gell’s ‘embodied in’ to Küchler’s ‘intrinsic’, a slight shift in understanding can be seen. Küchler’s ‘intrinsic’ edges toward the end of the continuum spoken of earlier (represented by Ingold), wherein non-human things are recognised to have a greater capacity for agency, separate from (and preceding) what is attributed to them by people. Put simply, materials have a pre-social quality, which they bring to human society. This ontic quality of the material is of epistemic importance, as it motivates modes of thought and action –a correlation between meaning and action more akin to Morphy’s critique. The intrinsic qualities, however, do
Introduction 13 not determine the social action of the material; rather, the qualities ‘allowed it to materially translate’ ideas and performances (Küchler 2005:189). It is, for Küchler as it is for Gell, still ultimately in the apprehension of the viewer (recipient) that the inherent indexicalities come to bear. Different materials, then, may, while having the same indexical qualities, have different aspects brought to the fore, in order to highlight or suppress particularly salient cultural modes of thought. With fabric, the Cook Islanders capitalise on specific qualities of fragility, malleability, and ephemerality in order to articulate (as action, rather than meaning) specific ideas about life.
God In this final aspect of Gellian scholarship, there is the emergence of a crucial aspect of anthropological interpretation of material agency: that of indigenous inference. One of the many critiques of Gell’s last work is that he often resorted to his own presumptions (a modern form of armchair anthropology) rather than ethnographic verification for proof of his analytical model (Campbell 2001; Morphy 2009). As such, most scholars who chose to use a Gellian model do so with a very conscious choice to admit indigenous aesthetics and symbolic interpretation back into the groundwork (Campbell 2001, 2002; Fortis 2012; Küchler 2005, 2013; Tanner 2013; Weiner 2001). This book follows this move, seeking to understand what it is that Orthodox Christians understand to occur in relation to the symbolic and aesthetic qualities of the material (and immaterial) objects at play in these pages. As exemplified superbly in the work of Shirley Campbell on Vakutan Kula canoes, this method often demands close analytical engagement with the mythologies and institutional schools of thought (in Vakutan, ‘sopi’) which control the magical substance (in Vakutan, ‘sopi’) of artistic, aesthetic (in Vakutan, ‘sopi’) production (Campbell 2002). That is to say, Campbell translates the Vakutan notion of sopi as, alternatively, a school of thought, the magical substance used, and the aesthetic sense associated with the production of canoe prows. In the context of Orthodox Christian practice, the schools of thought, the mythological (cosmological) justification, and the ideas that govern the use of ‘magical’ (sacred) material are known as ‘theology’. As such, this book engages with Orthodox Christian theology –a thing which, as Hann and Goltz identify, is not a ‘discourse on God, [but] it is rather a liturgical discourse of and between God and human beings’ (2010:14, emphasis in original). In taking an Anthropology of Art approach, following Gell and Campbell among others, in an Eastern Orthodox context, therefore, it is necessary to consider the role of God as a social being, participating within the research context. Following Hann and Goltz on the definition of theology, it can be said that –within this book –God is taken to be a ‘thing’ in Ingold’s sense. He (it) is a ‘going on’, into and with which Orthodox Christians may be ‘swept up in the generative currents of the world’ (Ingold 2010:95–96). To an Orthodox
14 Introduction (or broadly religious) person, this may sound blasphemous –so allow a paraphrase: In this book, God is understood as a source of activity (what Aristotle would have called the ‘first mover’). To use the language of the Church Fathers, He is an essence (a being beyond being) whose energies emanate through (and constitute) the entire universe. To be in right relation ‘with’ God would, then, be to align oneself with the generative currents of the world. There is a careful line trodden in making this alignment. In one aspect, taking ‘God’ as a ‘thing’ reduces –what to the Orthodox Christian is –the unoriginate essence from which existence itself is derived into an analytical concept to behold. However, if we –at least in this instance –follow the simple formula of ‘thing’ offered by Ingold as a site of ‘goings on’, or a source of activity, then we have an anthropological model of God that allows us to move forward. As a ‘going on’ through which the Orthodox Christian can be swept up into the generative movements of the universe, God –or at least the concept of God –can then be used within the anthropological paradigm seeking to understand the religious devotion (being a specific kind of relation) to that ‘thing’. Being ‘of’ and ‘between’, theology can be seen as an inherently social phenomenon, an activity into which both God and Orthodox Christians (lay and clerical) may –and, in the fieldsite of St Æthelwald’s, do – enter. Naming God as a ‘thing’ within a work on the material culture of a religion begs the question concerning the material nature of God. To be clear, theologically, God is immaterial –in fact, God is the only truly immaterial thing. In Orthodox theology, even the human soul is a material thing. But, if God is a social being who enters into relationships within the social body, does God have a body? In Christianity, where God is understood as the Trinity, such that He (singular) is three persons (plural), one might assume that God is a person(s) with no body. However, some theological traditions, including Orthodoxy, claim that Christ –having bodily risen from the dead, and having bodily ascended into heaven –still has a human body. How this works, none of my informants could clearly say, nor were any particularly concerned that they could not. The Incarnation –that is, God the Son’s act of humility (kenosis, or self-emptying) to become human –had a profound impact on informants’ ritual practice; it is this dogmatic fact that allowed ikons to be used. The Incarnation made the invisible God visible in human form, and thus ikons, which are likewise a technology of making visible, may be used in worshipping God. Similarly, the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ, celebrated each Pascha, is a feast without rival, and the period of Pascha ends with the festal commemoration of Christ’s bodily ascension into heaven. What it meant in real terms (to Jesus) to be bodily in heaven was vague. What it meant in real terms (to my informants) for Jesus to be bodily in heaven was clear. It was their hope of resurrection. Christ’s kenosis and the various aspects of it –such as his conception and birth as a human, his life and teaching, and his death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven –together with the major life events of his mother also form the basis of the yearly Feasts of the Church. Christ’s act of becoming
Introduction 15 human is a major guiding trope within the Orthodox Christian life and models what it means to ‘become human’. Mary’s life example is the proof of this accomplished par excellence. This notion of ‘becoming human’, phrased sometimes as becoming ‘truly’ or ‘fully’ human, and paraphrased as ‘becoming Orthodox’ is important in how Orthodox Christians understand what they are doing within their religious pursuit. To become Orthodox is to become fully human, and to be(come) like Christ. To become fully human is to live with God, even as Mary did. Elsewhere in the Anthropology of Christianity, Joseph Webster’s (2013) work on Scottish non- conformists has argued that things (loose notes, washing machines, etc.) are the immanence of God, following a collapsed semiotics à la Wagner’s (1981, 1986b) ‘symbols that stand for themselves’. This might suggest that even the Protestant God, dogmatically conceived of as invisible and incorporeal, can be said to have materiality which may, analytically, be indistinguishable from that of a body. Knibbe and Versteeg, for their part, note that for charismatics in the Netherlands, God ‘is a person who embraces, kisses, and who wants to be kissed and hugged as well’ (2008:52). Here, even if God does not have a body (a question Knibbe and Versteeg do not ask), he certainly has bodily intersubjectivity. There is the possibility, then, of knowing God via materials, and heaven – as the place where God dwells –may, too, become knowable via things and other people. How this works within an Orthodox Christian context –and specifically the parish church of St Æthelwald’s in Greater London and various sites of pilgrimage in England and the Monastery of Vatopedi in Mt Athos, Greece –is addressed in the subsequent chapters.
Summary The chapters are laid out in three parts. The first triad sets the scene in terms of the people and places, the second set of chapters investigates how specific types of material are used and how they get taken up within the devotional practices, and the final three chapters expand this in the specific context of making heaven. Chapter 1 situates the people at St Æthelwald’s parish within the longer history of Orthodox Christianity within Britain. It sketches some specific characters and provides a brief history of the parish they have come to form. Chapter 2 follows parishioners, and one young woman specifically, en route to the temple in order to give a feel for the movement within the city of London and how parishioners at St Æthelwald’s relate to the sensory spaces of Britain. The final chapter in Part I outlines the process of setting up the temple each Sunday morning –a process that is understood as the transformation of a heterodox building into the sacred space of an Orthodox temple –and frames this process of changing place in the context of Orthodox understanding of location and geography, as exemplified in pilgrimatic practices, both locally and abroad.
16 Introduction Part II opens with Chapter 4, which highlights the transformational capacity of textiles in order to examine the specific implications of the transformation introduced in Chapter 3. Chapter 5 investigates how different kinds of material are able to make different kinds of transformations, exploring the implications of the different properties and affordances of various sacerdotal items and substances. Chapter 6 closes this middle section, using an extended ethnographic investigation of a young woman’s conversion and Baptism in order to look at what these various modes of transformation are moving to: namely, the making of ikons and the ikonicity of people and place. The final triad of chapters opens with Chapter 7, which looks closely at the priestly vestments and the process of vesting for a Liturgy, unpacking what is involved in the symbolic implications of the priest as an embodied ikon of Christ. This is a process through which the priest moves from the position of a self-condemned sinner to that of a person sharing in the divine ministry of God. Chapter 7 is almost purely ethnographic and plays an important role in establishing the context for a theoretically dense Chapter 8. For its part, Chapter 8 considers the transformation of Niyousha-Christina (in Chapter 6) and the vesting process (from Chapter 7) in order to consider how we should understand what the human person is –in terms of its properties and affordances as a material entity –and what this means in terms of the Orthodox Christian relation to material culture. The final chapter, again principally ethnographic in nature, draws these aspects of place and people together, particularly looking at the subjectivity of the saints within the venerative practices of Orthodox Christians, in order to show how heaven is made. An Epilogue follows, bringing the book to a close with a final look at heaven and sacred space within the perfectly mundane context of a kitchen spice rack. Taken together, the chapters in this volume demonstrate how Eastern Orthodox Christians –specifically in these research contexts –use their material culture within their worshipful practice. While the argument arises from specific communities, unique in their respective natures and histories, the argument has wider application. What becomes visible in East London and Vatopedi speaks to shared practices across Eastern Orthodox Christianity, highlighting how Eastern Christians use the qualities inherent in materials in order to aid in the formation of their religious subjectivities in an artful process of becoming Orthodox.
People and place
1 British Orthodoxy1
Orthodox Christians in England understand themselves to be the inheritors of an ancient tradition in the British Isles going back as far as St Aristobulus,2 who was numbered among the seventy disciples of Jesus,3 and was raised to the episcopacy and sent to Britain by St Paul.4 This Orthodox heritage stretched down until St Edward the Confessor and his son the Martyr King Harold (cf Moss 2011). With the Conquest of William of Normandy, however, Orthodox Christians see a break in the constitution of England as an Orthodox nation. William, acting under the blessing of the recently excommunicated See of Rome, ended the Orthodox heritage of England. The ecclesiastical rift between Orthodox Christians and other Christians in Britain was then made worse by the destruction of the Orthodox material culture. The Dissolution of the Monasteries undertaken by Henry VIII destroyed much of the material remains of Orthodox Christianity. By this point in time, only the ecumenically minded Orthodox Christian would consider the monastics in Britain to be spiritual kin, but there is a great loss felt by Orthodox Britons, nonetheless, because the destruction included many ancient relics, ikons, and monasteries that were extant from the period before the Schism and Conquest. This event in British history marks a worsening by degrees of an already dire situation. While the Roman Catholics were bad, one informant said, the Protestants proved much more hostile and destructive. While the past is central to this section, it is not concerned with history; rather, it is about continuity. Husserl draws a useful distinction between an historical event remembered and a past event still experienced 1 Part of this chapter appeared in an earlier argument, specifically about ikons and British saints. For this related discussion, see Carroll (2015). 2 This local inheritance being in addition to the religious continuity (Stewart 1991) they claim as Orthodox Christians. Charles Stewart’s (2008, 2012) work on historicity and memory in a Greek context is an insightful comparison –particularly as the landscape may be animated with the possibility of the sacred hidden (buried) in the terrain. This allows a certain recursivity within history, thus challenging the linear progression of time. 3 Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10. 4 A brief account of his life is given in the Greek Menaion on his feast, 15 March, or for those in the Slavonic tradition on 16 March.
20 People and place (Husserl 1991). In the context of Orthodox Britain, for example, while the Battle of Hastings is an historical event, the Conquest and consequential severance of the Church in Britain from the Orthodox Church is a moment of the past still experienced for Orthodox Christians in Britain today. For Husserl, history is something that takes the mind’s attention and focuses it on something separate and past (ibid.; see also Gell 1992a, 1998; Gosden 1994). As what he calls a ‘reproduction’, historical considerations restrict the mind’s perception from the present context. In contrast, he outlines a system wherein the past is remembered as a continuity of the present. A musical note held for five seconds is, in this way, seen to be a ‘time object’, wherein the first second of the note is held in the mind, as a ‘retention’, when hearing the final second. The first is still being experienced even though it has passed. Husserlian retentions, and their forward-looking sisters, ‘protentions’, expand the ‘time horizons’ of the present (Gell 1992a; Husserl 1991). It is the argument here sustained that Orthodox British presence is an ‘expanded present’, which includes people such as St Aristobulus and events like the Dissolution of the Monasteries within the local time horizons of Orthodox presence. As such, this section is not so much an ‘historical background’ as an ‘expanded present context’. My argument, however, moves beyond Husserl’s focus on the perception of phenomena to consider the sensuous, affective aspects of those things held within perception. This artefactual approach, looking at the qualities of materials moving forward in time, is largely done following Alfred Gell’s application of Husserl to the analysis of art (Gell 1998, 2013). In his understanding of the extended mind, Gell sees art-like production to be a process of objectification of the artist’s mind (1998:265). Earlier pieces, which exhibit themes developed in later pieces, are seen as retention within the whole œuvre of an artist’s life work (1998, 2013). For Gell, there is a strong bond between the perception (and reception) of an art-like object and the artist’s mind, linked through the medium of the art-like object (1992a, 1998). The manipulation of materials is able to produce pieces that trap the viewer, drawing the viewer into a relationship with the mind of the artist and the prototype after which the piece is modelled (Gell 1992b, 1996, 1998). Gell applies this model of relations of retentions and protentions both within a single artist’s corpus (2013) and within artefactual elements of a larger society (1998, 2013). Examining a Maori meetinghouse, Gell identifies the assemblage of woodcarvings that form the architectural structure of the building as a series of retentions of previous generations and protentions toward future generations (1998:251ff). These, which Husserl classes together as ‘intentions’, produce an expanded present in which the multiple generations of a Maori clan may be together present at the same time via the artefactual quality of the house-as-intention. Following this material reading of Husserl, I argue that episodes such as the Conquest and people such as the 7th-century St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne form elements of St Æthelwald’s past, not as history, but as a set of retentions.
British Orthodoxy 21 It should be noted that my informants did not use this Husserlian model to understand their own material practice of the saints. A few with whom these ideas were shared did see the promising nature of the enquiry; however, within their own teaching and discussions of the past, the language that is used is that of collective consciousness (having ‘the mind of the Church’) and familial history. There is an understanding of inherited memory that ties individuals into the intergenerational community of both the living and those who have died. In a sense, everything that is remembered is held in common lived memory. The analogy that is used by the St Æthelwald’s parish priest to describe this to neophytes is that of family history. A newly wed in-law will never truly become part of the family, the argument goes, unless he takes on the stories of his bride’s heritage as his own. He may be welcomed at the table, included in family events, but until he takes on the memory of his new wife’s family, he will always be, in Fr Theophan’s words, ‘just that guy our Svetlana married’. This ‘family history’ of the Orthodox Church includes a wide range of events often recalled in no particular order, such as the Diocletian persecution, the Ikonoclastic Era, Julian the Apostate, the Ottoman and Turkish Yoke, the Communist Yoke, and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. These are all events that the family has endured, and each shapes this community in their relationship to the Britain in which they now find themselves. It is a Britain that is often hostile, but is also rich with retentions of the Church’s own material culture. Each of these events has shaped the Church, and in many cases their evidence can be seen in the Feasts of the Church, the biographies of the saints, or the ethnic make-up of the local congregations. Pilgrimages to places such as Barking Abbey and the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham work to celebrate what the priest at St Æthelwald’s sister parish in Essex calls ‘the holiness of our own region’ (News Letter 176 , cited at length in Chapter 3). Orthodox Christians find themselves in Britain surrounded by places that have an ancient sacred character, and this character is considered to still colour the nature of the place today. As such, the ancient saints, as well as the devastation of the Conquest and Dissolution, are active parts of how Orthodox Britons constitute their environment. These local events are part of a wider historic narrative that is held, to greater or lesser degree, by all those in the parish.
Modern re-emergence This is Orthodoxy’s ancient presence in Britain. It stretches back to include members of Christ’s own following, and boasts a thousand years of vibrant religious fervency and cultural production, notably at sites quite close to St Æthelwald’s physical location, such as the monastery of Barking Abbey. Orthodoxy’s recent presence dates back to the slow introduction of merchants, students, and labourers, mostly from Greece, starting in the 17th century (Catsiyannis 1993; Harris 2009). The first modern Orthodox parish in Britain was founded in London in 1677, in Soho, dedicated to the Dormition of the
22 People and place Mother of God. Though started under the patronage of the then Duke of York, King James VII, it was short lived, and was closed after the Anglican Bishop of London complained about its ‘Romish’ practice of ikon usage (Theocharous 2000). Greek Street, in Soho, still bears its name –the only evidence of the former parish. In 1698, Tsar Peter the Great visited England, spending four months in the capital. During his stay, a small parish was established in conjunction with the Russian embassy. Welcoming both Greek and Slavonic worshippers together, it quickly outgrew its housing within the embassy; but this parish is thought to be the first permanent Orthodox Christian parish in modern Britain, and though it has moved several times, the community claims continuity with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad cathedral parish of the Dormition of the Mother of God and the Royal Martyrs (ROCA 2005), now in Gunnersbury. By the 1920s, the Orthodox population, mostly Greek and Russian, was large enough to warrant episcopal oversight. First by the Œcumenical Throne of Constantinople, in 1922, and then by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (later ROCOR), in 1929, Orthodox bishops were named for London. The Orthodox Christian presence in Britain grew again, in three marked waves. The first was that of the Cypriot immigration following the Turkish invasion in 1974. The second was of various Eastern European communities following the fall of the Soviet Union and subsequent inauguration of ‘free movement’ within the European Union. The third is a ‘native’ movement (used in inverted commas, oftentimes, by those in the movement themselves). Largely led by a group of former Anglican ministers who, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, grew increasingly dissatisfied with the liberalisation and modernisation of the Church of England, this third group sought entrance into the Orthodox Church (Harper 1999). A priest intimately connected within the dialogues concerning this group, though himself outside the group, described to me a process which included the formation of a synod of Greek, Russian, and Antiochian clerical authorities in order to determine whether indeed the group should be received into the Orthodox Church, and if so, on what grounds. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, however, circumnavigated this process when the Patriarch decided to receive the group as a whole. The group was received into the Antiochian Greek Orthodox Church in 1995 by Patriarch Ignatios IV (Hazim). A deanery was created for those parishes in the United Kingdom and Ireland and placed under the episcopal oversight of Metropolitan Gabriel (Saliby) of Paris (Hallam n.d.). At the time of my research, the parish of St Æthelwald’s was one among roughly fifteen Antiochian parishes. In 2013, the deanery was elevated in status and is now the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland. While the parish was started with a majority of ex-Anglicans of British, if not English, ancestry, the parish has become increasingly varied in its demography. The priest describes the parish as a ‘truly metropolitan parish for a truly metropolitan city’, and he is correct in assessing the parish as having
British Orthodoxy 23 a variety of ethnic, linguistic, and socio-economic backgrounds. As a general principle, everyone is drawn to this parish, as opposed to the countless others across London, because St Æthelwald’s is unique in offering the weekly Liturgy in English. This lingua franca unites native English speakers from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, the United States, Jamaica, New Zealand, and Australia. Others have chosen the parish either because the Liturgy is not offered in their native tongue (Italian, Spanish, German, Polish) or because they would prefer to worship in the national language as opposed to the ‘Orthodox’ language they speak (Greek, Romanian, Russian, Serbian). Because of the nature of St Æthelwald’s as an urban parish, the number of parishioners and visitors on any given Sunday varies quite widely. On most Sundays, between thirty and forty persons can be expected to be present. Pascha –which in any parish always boasts the greatest numbers of attendees –in 2012 was attended by eighty persons.
St Æthelwald’s This book is based on three years’ participant observation from September 2009 to August 2012. The parish is called St Æthelwald’s Antiochian Orthodox Parish, and it rents space each week from the synonymously named Church of England parish. The parish underwent a significant demographic shift during the three years of ethnographic engagement, but in general the temple of St Æthelwald’s had about forty people on a Sunday morning. A much larger number of people, closer to 200, were either occasional attendees –but primarily based at other parishes, either in London or abroad –or members of the parish but house-bound and consequently present only rarely, if ever. Due to the infrequent contact between fellow parishioners, a core group of parishioners, and key informants, stayed together, past the Liturgy and past the weekly parish lunch, attending ‘coffee club’ well into the evening. Along with this routinised participation in the parish each Sunday between, roughly, 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., I also joined parishioners on ‘family days’, hosted at various homes; parish outings to sister parishes across London to celebrate mid-week feasts; and local pilgrimages within England. Each of these is discussed in more detail in the subsequent chapter. Alongside these group settings, I also joined individual parishioners in attending other parishes (outlined in the next chapter) –this provided insight into how parishioners supplement the limited services offered at St Æthelwald’s. It also afforded comparison in terms of how St Æthelwald’s ritual practice fits within wider circles of Orthodox Christianity. Furthermore, informal interviews were conducted with roughly thirty parishioners as well as roughly a dozen individuals from sister parishes across the diocese. When possible, interviews were conducted in the parishioner’s home, many of these lasting several hours, and most individuals were interviewed several times over the three years. Key informants were engaged in interviews at regular intervals in order to gain a sense of how the yearly cycles of feasting and fasting, including colour shifts
24 People and place and the change in fabrics used in the liturgical cycle, affected the individual. As September is considered the Church New Year, the three years of participant observation coincided with three full performances of the liturgical calendar. Along with interviews, several outings –such as personal retreats to St John’s Monastery in Essex, or the gathering of oak galls from Epping Forest in order to render traditional ink for ikonographic work –extended out of the parish community, following individuals as they performed their religious devotion. Another important aspect of my research engagement with the parish relates to the fact that Orthodox Christians, at least in my experience, have a regular practice of recommending, along with pilgrimages and the use of ritual paraphernalia, books and other text-based resources. Informants routinely directed my questions to both published and online resources. In the Introduction, it is argued that engaging theology is an analytical necessity arising from an arts-approach to the materiality of transformation, particularly following Campbell’s development of Gellian thought. Here, it is seen that engaging theology is a methodological necessity arising from the saliency of theology (both codified and otherwise) within the fieldsite. During the course of research, I became better at asking questions which would elicit individuals’ thoughts, but I also made a practice of reading the monastic, academic, Patristic, and spiritual texts recommended to me. As this book is not a theological study or an anthropological study of theology, these texts are quoted in this book only rarely; however, they proved methodologically beneficial in two ways. Principally, they gave me a broad sense of the debates internal to Orthodox Christian practice (theological, political, ethical, social). This supplied the context in which to understand many of the statements my informants made. Furthermore, they provided me with a less ‘foreign’ language with which I could phrase more meaningful and less hostile questions that elicited more informative answers. This might appear tangential to the primary interest of this book: the how and why of fabric in Orthodox worship. However, reading theological text provided a greater insight into Eastern Orthodox tropes and modes of self-understanding. So, while not directly quoted, insights gained through reading theology as part of the ethnography have heavily influenced the analytical models used in this book. Where the theological (and especially the liturgical, as theology in practice) aspect is particularly conducive to further exploration of a theme, I have tried to footnote this area of possible elaboration. When preliminary research began in the autumn of 2009, the founding priest, Fr Gabriel, was very frail, in the late stages of cancer. He passed on the evening of 5 January 2010, on the eve of the Feast of Theophany. Following a type of abstraction similar to that outlined earlier, his successor, Fr Theophan, interpreted his time of death as ‘hearing the talanton’ and going to attend the Heavenly Liturgy of the Feast. A talanton is a long, often ornately carved, plank of wood, which, in monastic communities, is hit with a wooden hammer to sound out specific tones and rhythms. These echo around the monastery
British Orthodoxy 25 walls, signalling the call to pray, to work, to eat. The founding priest had been a leading charismatic minister for years, and Orthodox, Anglican, and Charismatic Christians worldwide marked his passing. While Fr Gabriel was a leading member of the group of Anglican ministers who were received into the Orthodox Church in 1995, Fr Theophan has never – and this is a point of pride for him –been Anglican. American born to White Russian emigrants to Canada, from what is now Ukraine, Fr Theophan is a character of dynamic personality. While his predecessor was, in many ways, quintessentially English, a gentleman and a scholar, Fr Theophan makes no bones about not being English, and is loath to let stand the epithet given to his parish after its admission into the Orthodox Church on somewhat canonically dubious grounds. The parish, still as of 2012, was sometimes referred to by clergy in the wider Orthodox circles in London as the ‘Anglican Orthodox parish’ (a slur, in case the reader is unsure). Fr Theophan took over rectorship of the parish in January 2010, but tried to change very little for the first year after his predecessor’s death. The only exception to this was the correction of liturgical practice around the Feast of Pascha, and extending the catechetical period from four weeks to the better part of a year. During this first year, the parish also shrank considerably. Some left for personal reasons, either having been at the parish partially because of a personal connection to the founding priest or leaving due to personal conflict with the succeeding priest. By the summer of 2011, attendance was down below twenty on the average Sunday. A deacon who had served alongside Fr Theophan was transferred to the Greek archdiocese, and he took up the priesthood, filling a post left vacant by his spiritual father. One of the two subdeacons, who had a post in the government, was transferred to Brussels. The other subdeacon withdrew for a period to care for his wife, who had suffered a stroke. With the rapid depletion of clergy, the parish was left with only the priest and a reader. After some discussion among the clergy and, to a lesser extent, the parish council, these two individuals began to change, quite substantially, the liturgical style of the parish. When the parish was founded, resources were borrowed from Antiochian parishes in the United States. Drawing on personal friendship with leaders of a rather large group of former Evangelicals who had, en masse, joined the Antiochian Greek Orthodox Church in 1987 (Gillquist 1989), the ex-Anglican group in the United Kingdom received a number of liturgical resources in English. Once the Antiochian Evangelical Orthodox Mission in the United States and Canada was absorbed into the existing diocesan structure, in 1995, many of these resources were removed from usage in the United States (Sokoll 2013; personal communication). As far as I can piece together from various interviews with older members of the parish, however, St Æthelwald’s continued to use these –often quite unorthodox –musical arrangements. Fr Theophan and the reader, Romanos, decided to systematically change the musical arrangements used for the Liturgy, doing away with what was an incongruous set of arrangements taken from various Russian and Anglican
26 People and place sources, even including a Praise and Worship arrangement. Instead, they decided to adopt ‘full Byzantine Chant’. The inverted commas here are necessary, as the Byzantine Chant sung in St Æthelwald’s, though beautiful and well executed, would not be recognised by many trained in Byzantine Chant as such. Rather, the parish uses a transliteration of Byzantine Chant written in Western musical notation. The other highly conscious change that Fr Theophan implemented was an increased effort to practise devotion to the Mother of God, and particularly Our Lady of Walsingham. Fr Theophan’s own biography as a clergyman has strong ties to Our Lady of Walsingham, as he was gifted, early in his ministry, with an ikon of Our Lady. At the time he did not know about her apparition in 1061 or the popular devotion to her throughout the European Middle Ages. He has since, however, grown in devotion to her, and sees her as something of a patron of his life and ministry. Part of the veneration of Our Lady of Walsingham is a tradition that calls England ‘Mary’s Dowry’. Consecrated as such by Richard II, in 1381, England had a close connection with Mary until the reign of Elizabeth I, who positioned herself as the Virgin Mother of the kingdom (Hackett 1995). Fr Theophan tapped into this old Catholic tradition and borrowed a prayer of dedication from a Catholic service book. He changed a few words in order for it to fit the pattern for an Orthodox prayer, and prays it at each Feast of the Mother of God. He also brings the large ikon of Our Lady of Walsingham gifted to him into the parish on these occasions, placing it on the solea for veneration. This, coupled with an annual pilgrimage to Walsingham, has formed what he considers to be a crucial foundation for the parish. And, while he professes to be a sceptic, not believing in tales of miraculous intervention, he sees the subsequent growth of the parish over the successive two years as a direct consequence of the place of honour that the Theotokos has been granted in the parish’s public devotion. ‘Public devotion’ should be read quite literally. ‘Unless there are hail stones the size of golf balls’, says the priest, a procession is held on each Feast of the Theotokos (Figure 1.1). Holding the ikon aloft, with a server lighting the way with a candle, the priest leads the congregation out of the parish, around the public square, and back into the temple. Taken in total, this means that roughly every other month, the parish processes out onto the busy Central London street, under the towering Gherkin, next to lines of red double- decker buses. This visibility is purposeful, and it is done consciously with the anticipation of allowing ‘that person on the bus’ to come face to face with ‘England’s Mother’. This processional movement of ikons out of the temple, therefore, serves to extend the inter-ocular subjectivity between human and divine personages out into London. The parishioners Because of the (small) size and (great) diversity of the parish, it is simply impossible to give general descriptions, other than simply that most parishioners
British Orthodoxy 27
Figure 1.1 Procession of Our Lady of Walsingham, Feast of the Annunciation 2012. Image still by author.
come alone. There are a few young families, and the clatter of toys against the stone floor, or the sudden cry of a bonked head, is heard from time to time. On the whole, however, the noisiest disturbance is the traffic outside. Instead of offering vague generalities about the parishioners, below are sketched out a few brief biographies offered in order for the reader to get a rough sense of who is present. Because of the small size, it is very difficult to maintain anonymity. Some parishioners have asked, specifically, to have their name used. Often, however, this is not their legal name, but rather, the name of their patron saint, a relationship established upon converting to the Orthodox Church (this process is discussed in depth in Chapter 6). As such, in many cases people are known by two names, but their legal name only becomes known when exchanging email addresses or becoming friends on Facebook. Except in the case where professional integrity requires use of the informant’s legal name (for example, in the case of the artist and ikonographer Christabel Helena Anderson), first names, of patron or pseudonym, are used. At the time of wrapping up my research, the parish was back up to roughly forty on a Sunday morning. This would usually include the priest, Fr Theophan, who, as said earlier, was American born, but clung proudly to a Canadian persona of Ukrainian Rus ancestry. He was not raised in the Church, but joined at the age of thirteen in rebellion against his atheist parents. The subdeacon and his wife, who was considerably recovered by this point, attended regularly, save when business took him abroad or her course work became too heavy. They came to Orthodoxy together, first while living in Texas, and then found the parish, in 1996, just after its founding. Close
28 People and place to twenty years on, they are the only parties present from the original community. The Reader is a Scottish gentleman, raised in the Roman Church. Having taken the name of St Romanos the Melodist, he brings to the chant a quality only available with the operatic training he has received. Standing steadfast next to him in the choir is Mary. She has lived her whole life in Kent, and after years serving as an organist in the Church of England, studied theology: first at Lambeth and then at the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge. Reading the Patristics –that is, the Church Fathers – Mary become convinced of the claims of the Orthodox Church. Next to Romanos and Mary stand, usually, at least two other choir members –but who these were changed over the years. One singer stepped down due to health problems with her vocal cords; one gentleman left the parish for personal reasons; another woman stepped back her participation because learning the Byzantine Chant proved too demanding on her already booked personal and professional diary. Roughly half of the parish are likewise converts to Orthodoxy. Only a small percentage, by 2012, came from Anglicanism. Miriam, an Irish octogenarian, was raised between Quakerism and Roman Catholicism. During a career as an English-Russian translator, she converted to the Russian Church, then joined the parish shortly after they established themselves as an Anglophonic Orthodox community. Several parishioners, like Romanos, came from Roman Catholicism. Two young women had been part of a Jamaican Pentecostal church; several came to Christianity from atheist or agnostic English homes. One man, though Romanian, had not been raised in the Church, and converted to Orthodoxy in Romania after some time in a Pentecostal congregation. Along with this random assortment of converts, the parish also included a British-Cypriot family, the wife having converted before she married. A Romanian- Jamaican family, similarly, came with their children when in the United Kingdom. A Serbian-American couple, both ‘cradle’ Orthodox, and a Syrian woman and her American Orthodox husband both split their time between the English-speaking parish of St Æthelwald’s and a Serbian-or Arabic-speaking parish, respectively. Such fluctuations, people passing in and out of London or splitting their time between two languages, led to an uncertainty of attendance from one week to the next. While most of the parish came as individuals, a few families filled the back pews. Here stood the already mentioned British-Cypriot family, on most Sundays, except when works were being carried out on their Hertfordshire rail line. Here, too, the Serbian-American family could be found on many Sunday mornings. Two young mothers, one English and one American, both married to Catholic men, also moved about in the back, keeping their children entertained, engaged, and quiet as they made loops around the furnishings. While most parishioners would enter, make proskynesis, and stand for the service, unmoving, save for the genuflections, until it was time to move
British Orthodoxy 29 forward to commune, stillness should not be seen to characterise the parish. Rather, the movement exemplified by the children circling around in the back of the temple is more emblematic of the parish. There is a formal similarity between the looping movements of the children in the back and side of the nave, the processual movements around inside and outside the temple, and the parishioners’ cycles of movement out from their home parish to sister parishes and sites of pilgrimage further abroad. This is explored in the next two chapters.
2 Coming to the Orthodox temple
St Æthelwald’s Parish Church is a Grade II* listed building1 tucked beneath glass towers in East London. As it is an historic edifice within an easy five- minute walk of several major transit lines meeting in Zone 1, there are a number of interest groups invested in the building. The Church of England owns the parish church, and in this capacity it hosts Mass midday on Wednesdays aimed at those working in the City. It also holds a number of other mid- week choral events. It is also a guild parish and hosts several annual events held by one of London’s Worshipful Companies which boasts a royal charter and six centuries of ritual tradition. As a City Church, St Æthelwald’s also participates in a yearly Open City, Open House London event that, through art installations and various public engagement events, seeks to draw visitors into historic cultural sites across London. Along with these official, long-term commitments that the parish building maintains, the Anglican parish also rents out space to a variety of groups. During the period of my research at St Æthelwald’s from 2009 to 2012, this included a Weight Watchers chapter, a nonconformist Ethiopian Evangelical congregation, and the Antiochian Greek Orthodox Parish with which my research is concerned.
Geographic context The building is located near a number of major transit stations, but is most easily served by London Liverpool Street Station, and it is through this hub that most parishioners of the Orthodox Parish of St Æthelwald’s travel. Liverpool Street Station is easily connected by several Underground lines, including the Central Line, which cuts, roughly east-west, across the metropolitan area; the Hammersmith-City Line, which also runs roughly east-west, but by a more southerly route east of Liverpool Street and then skirting north of Central London before turning south; the Circle Line, which follows the same northern route around Central London, turning south and then back 1 A Grade II* listing is a demarcation that the building is considered by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England to be ‘particularly important … of more than special interest’ (English-heritage.org.uk).
Coming to the Orthodox temple 31
Figure 2.1 St Æthelwald’s mid-Liturgy.
west after Liverpool Street; and the Metropolitan Line, which runs west and then north out of the city. In addition to these Underground train lines, London Liverpool Street Station is also a major National Rail terminus, with transport links to London’s north-east, Cambridge, and beyond. Notable also, for the purpose of getting to St Æthelwald’s, is Moorgate Station, which, along with its own set of National Rail destinations, is also a stop on the Northern Line, which with its double helix form stretches north-south across the city. Among other things, this line also links to London Bridge National Rail Station and Waterloo National Rail Station, each with train lines across the south of England. Added to these modes of rail transit are also a number of bus routes that crisscross the neighbouring areas of London. How the St Æthelwald parishioners travel to a Sunday Liturgy is, therefore, quite varied. Members live as far away as Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, and Dorset, but most live within the Greater London metropolitan area. While some parishioners own cars, it is devastatingly difficult to find parking in the area, and throughout the three years (from September 2009 until August 2012) of fieldwork in the
32 People and place parish I only saw private transportation being used by three individuals. Apart from one young man who rode a scooter, and parked it illegally in a back alley, private transport was only used to access St Æthelwald’s when the individual had another event directly after. For a city like London it is not particularly surprising that public transport plays such a role in the social engagement of communities (Trude 2007), but it does produce a common experience among the parishioners that is worth mentioning. As the fieldwork coincided with the build-up to the 2012 Olympics, much anxiety was spent on figuring out from one week to the next how to get to morning Liturgy. As improvement works were, almost universally, carried out on the weekends, such works had a particular impact on parish attendance. On more than one occasion, the priest –who resides on an upper branch of the Northern Line –was left with no alternative to calling a London black cab. In light of his limited income, this was deemed an issue of no small concern. The systematic closure of transport lines on Sunday mornings was interpreted by the priest as being the work of ‘the secular mind of this city’ set against Christianity. But this should not be read as a demonisation of the transit network, as that transit network was also the key to choosing to stay in such a central location, which, throughout the three years of engagement in the parish, was a constant cause for financial concern. The almost perpetual reality of possible financial collapse, and eviction, was tolerated because it was essential that the parish be easy to access from all parts of London and beyond, and that was only possible if it was in Zone 1. It is in the context of this ambivalence toward the city and its network of transportation that parishioners made their way on Sunday mornings, or rather on those Sunday mornings when the trains were operating routes that allowed them to make their way, to Liturgy. The all-but-the-exception use of public transport also made for a quite accidental commonality between all St Æthelwald-goers. They emerged from below, and came up into the temple.2 Coming out of the train, and coming up in the light of the station floor, one must then ride the escalators (if they are working) or climb the stairs up to street level. Street level, London Liverpool Street, is a tourist’s dream. The original Bedlam Hospital and a number of other historic buildings of note nestle against the glass curtain buildings that, even during fieldwork, grew up closer into Liverpool Street. With clear lines of sight to the Heron Tower and the iconic Gherkin, the plaza outside Liverpool Street Station is, on the average Sunday morning, full of Germans or Japanese, cameras in hand, necks stretched back, taking in the sights. Anna Strhan (2013), in her ethnography of the neighbouring Evangelical Anglican parish of St John’s, notes how the Evangelical Anglicans in the Liverpool Street area use skyscrapers as a motif with which to speak of a distanced 2 Several idioms are used to refer to the place wherein the Liturgy is held. ‘Church’, ‘parish’, ‘sanctuary’, and ‘temple’ are all roughly used in an interchangeable fashion. The first three listed here are, however, also used to speak of the Anglican building and community with which they share space. As such, to try to avoid confusion, ‘temple’ is used within this book to denote the Orthodox sacred space and the building when functioning as such.
Coming to the Orthodox temple 33 appraisal of the city below. This distance up is used to gain a vantage point from which they can ‘read’ the city (ibid.:340, citing de Certeau 1984; see also Garrett 2013:84, 2014). The height and clarity of sight go hand in hand. In my reading of Strhan’s work, one can make an analogy between the up-ness of the skyscraper, from whence comes clear sight, and the idea of the transcendent God of Protestant Christianity. The ‘view from above’ Strhan reads ‘as constructing a position that allows [a minister and the Christian audience] to read the city as peopled by the “lost” ’ (2013:340). This upward-at-a-distance is, within the parish of St John’s, a recurrent material motif. Like the skyscraper views of the City ‘as it is’, the pulpit is placed high above the congregation, requiring an upward gaze to receive the words of the Gospel message (2013:337; personal communication). St John’s parish is, in its Evangelical character, logocentric, but while there is a switch from the Eucharist to the Word as that thing which is held most holy, the material form of the worship is still similar. Although London’s skyscrapers feature in the religious imaginations of the city for other Christians local to this part of London, those making their way to St Æthelwald’s take no notice of them. Chapter 4 will develop the phenomenological difference between Orthodox and Anglican constitutions of the built environment in more detail. Here, however, the next subsection follows one parishioner, Joanna, as she moves through London in order to attend services. This is done to exemplify Orthodox experience within its geographic context. The subsequent subsection follows her into the temple, and the two subsections together trace a movement of preparation and approach that is characteristic of parishioners’ weekly movement toward St Æthelwald’s.
Experiencing the geography Joanna is in her early twenties, and, at the time that I met her, was a recent convert interested in becoming –and has subsequently pursued becoming –a nun. Apart from a minister of the Swedish Church in her mother’s extended family, Joanna had no connection to Christianity growing up. Then, sometime around when she was seventeen, Joanna, though she does not particularly remember how, became convinced that the Orthodox Liturgy was, as she puts it, ‘true’. ‘This is reality, obviously’, she says of the Liturgy; and coming to this conclusion, she decided she had ‘better stick with it’. Becoming convinced of the truth of the Liturgy, Joanna attended each week, as her work allowed. Then, when the opportunity arose, she switched jobs3 to allow herself to attend more of the services of the Church.4 3 My wife and I hired Joanna as a nanny for our infant son, and we lived in a shared flat. This allowed me to live in closer proximity to my fieldsite (something otherwise impossible in a dispersed urban community) and allowed Joanna to attend services whenever she wanted. 4 Following Orthodox Christian naming convention, ‘Church’ when given in the capitalised form always refers to the Orthodox Church in its broad sense (including Greeks, Antiochians, Russians, etc.) –unless specifically demarcating a proper noun, such as the Church of England.
34 People and place As did a number of others in the parish, Joanna lived in the Walthamstow area in north-east London. Each Sunday morning, she would take a bus (or walk if the weather allowed) to St James Street Station and catch a National Rail train into Liverpool Street Station. Dressed, most often, in flowing skirts and a warm duffle coat, Joanna would disembark in Liverpool Street Station, pass through the gates, and cross to the escalators. Rising up to the ground floor, she would cross the small plaza, past the commemoration of the Kindertransport, and weave her way through the side streets to St Æthelwald’s parish church. At a very close distance from the door, or even on the church doorstep, Joanna would pull from her leather satchel a large scarf. The scarf was large and black, save during Pascha, when she would use one that was white. Joanna waited until the doorstep to veil, taking the scarf, placing it over her head, and wrapping around her neck –tucking the ends into her coat. This was something she chose to do herself. About half the women in the parish did likewise, and in each case they waited until they were almost up to or inside the building before veiling. When asked about this, Joanna, almost hesitant to put it into words, said that she was afraid of being mistaken for a Muslim. She spoke of an Orthodox nun elsewhere in England who, being dressed in a traditional monastic habit, was mistaken for a woman in chador. The possibility of misinterpretation, the possibility that one’s life lived for Christ might be mistaken as one lived for a different religious creed, produced anxiety for a number of the women of St Æthelwald’s who chose to veil. The problem, as Joanna expressed it, was that most people travelling with her on public transport would not see a woman in veil and see it as evidence of Christianity. As such, it was better to travel as ‘nothing’, as it were, rather than the false positive of a different religious conviction. This is itself interesting, and should be seen with reference to Simon Harrison’s (1999) work on identity. Harrison outlines various ways in which minority groups suffer infringement, even the violation of personhood, through the appropriation of cultural forms on the part of hegemonic, majority groups. What is interesting here is that while no active misappropriation is taking place (i.e. Muslims in London have not chosen to veil in order to crowd out Christian expression in the public sphere), the Orthodox Christian community is forced into silence, made invisible by desire to avoid misidentification. The fault lies not, my informants feel, with the Muslims who veil, but with the wider British audience who choose to identify veiling as a Muslim practice. This is, however, only part of the issue at hand with postponed veiling. The other aspect is its relationship to how preparation for participation in the Liturgy is constituted. Because this book is concerned with the use and practice concerning religious materials, my research engagement involved great effort not only to observe what was practised by whom, but also to seek to understand, as much as possible, the religious experiences of those with whom I came into contact. As such, the methodology with which this research was conducted included an emphasis on the phenomenology of religious
Coming to the Orthodox temple 35 engagement. Already outlined in the preceding paragraphs is a description of the local landscape, not just as it might appear on a map (or specifically on the Transport for London signage), but as it is experienced by a body approaching the Orthodox temple. Joining parishioners en route to liturgical services allowed me, as researcher, to sense many of the same material phenomena as my informants, but the religious phenomena experienced alongside these sensoria were certainly different. I found that often the same material phenomena might give rise to multiple interpretations. In such situations, I highlight this variance, as the variance is itself part of the holism of the Orthodox Church. The book does not, however, simply leave the variety and disparity between interpretations at face value. Rather, the analytical model followed in this book takes the variance, both between informants and between the informants and the ethnographer, to be data rich for exploring. Take, for example, Joanna’s means of approaching the temple.
Coming in/to the temple Often, on the train, Joanna would pull out a small prayer book and use the time on transport to say the pre-or post-communion prayers, which those who partake of the Eucharist are encouraged to pray. On Saturday evenings, Joanna attended Great Vespers at a cathedral parish in Central London. This service, while not part of the Divine Liturgy, is a service of preparation for the Liturgy, and is considered a key part of the liturgical cycle. This time of prayer on the train served, then, in two ways to bring Joanna to the Liturgy. The physical transportation is coupled with the prayerful preparation to enter the temple. This, and other similar practices done by other parishioners, means that by the time Joanna is at the door of St Æthelwald’s, having veiled, she is already in the mindful state of participation in the Liturgy. In this movement through public transport there is a basic movement up (out of tunnels) and forward to communion. Communion must be understood in a broad sense. On the one hand, ‘communion’ culminates in ‘Communion’, that is, the Eucharist. Joanna’s practice of praying the pre- communion prayers on the train ride before the Liturgy (or sometimes on the preceding evening, following Great Vespers) is a clear example of the Eucharist as the end goal. But communion is also community, fellowship (or ‘co-presence’ [Zhao 2003]) –with both fellow parishioners and the saints. Once veiled, Joanna pushes through the outer door, and is met with an ikon, resting on a slanted plinth, called an analogion (pl. analogia) or ikon stand. Seeing this ikon, Joanna pinches her first two fingers against her thumb on the right hand, holding the pinkie and ring finger down against the pad of the same. She makes the sign of the cross over herself: first touching her forehead, then drawing the hand down to roughly her midsection, then up at a diagonal to her right shoulder, and across her chest to her left shoulder. With this motion complete, she bows, touching the ground before the ikon, then rises part way, and kisses the ikon. This body technique of bowing, touching
36 People and place the ground, is called a metania,5 which translates as ‘repentance’. It is seen as an act of humility and obeisance that is done, particularly during periods of penitence such as Lent, as a way of showing respect to something that is holy. On most Sundays it is the ikon of the Resurrection in front of which Joanna finds herself on entry to the temple. The ikon shows Christ, newly raised from the dead, pulling an old man and an old woman out of sarcophagi. He stands upon two doors, laid crosswise atop each other. These doors, anyone familiar with Orthodox ikonography will know, are the gates of Hell/Hades, and the old couple are Adam and Eve. At this juncture, it is important to establish ikons as a place of intersubjectivity between the contemporary Orthodox person and the person imaged in the ikon. Upon entering the temple, Orthodox Christians make what in Greek is called ‘proskynesis’ (lit. ‘kiss toward’), and in English is sometimes simply called ‘lighting a candle’ or ‘greeting the ikons’. Following this pattern of practice, Joanna rises from kissing the ikon of Christ’s triumph over death and pushes past the second door, into the main nave.6 Skirting along the back of the nave, she comes to the central aisle. To the right is another analogion with an ikon of Christ Pantokrator and another of his cousin, John the Forerunner. She greets these, like the one before, with the sign of the cross, a bow, and a kiss. To the left is another analogion with an ikon of Mary, the Mother of God, holding the Christ child. To its side is an ikon of the patron of the parish. These, too, Joanna greets in like manner. She goes down and comes up to face the saint, kissing them –usually on the hand, the foot, or an object they may hold, such as a Gospel book. This oscillation between downward motion and then moving up to fellowship is repeated throughout Orthodox practice, and will be discussed more fully later. This practice of greeting the ikons with a bow and a kiss is not unique to the artefactual domain. Orthodox Christians, for example, often bow before greeting a priest, and receive his blessing with a kiss of his hand. Likewise, parishioners will greet each other, often with a little nod of the head and the exchange of kisses. Following an Arabic practice, those at St Æthelwald’s exchange three kisses, first touching right cheeks, then left, then right again. (Greeks, by contrast, usually only exchange two kisses.) From this practice, it can be seen that when the parishioner enters the temple, the practice of proskynesis is a ritual act of devotion (the ‘veneration’ of the saints, the ‘worship’ of God) characterised by the exchange of greetings. Having greeted Christ, the Theotokos, and the saints, Joanna steps forward to a small, waist-high box, roughly two feet wide, four feet long, and six inches deep, which is partially filled with sand. Dropping a few coins through a slit at one end, she takes a long beeswax candle, lights it from one already lit, and places hers in the sand. She crosses herself again and moves into a place in the pews, but does not sit. As mentioned earlier, proskynesis is sometimes 5 The same word as ‘metanoia’, μετάνοια; in this context, it is pronounced as me-ta-ña. 6 A diagram of the parish can be found at the end of the book, after the Glossary.
Coming to the Orthodox temple 37 in English called ‘lighting a candle’. People will even simply make the hand motion, as if one were pushing a long taper candle into sand, indicating that they are going to pray –or to ask someone to light a candle for them. What is described in this phrase and gesture is a synecdochal aspect of the process of entering the temple in prayer. The bowing, the kissing, the lighting of candles are all part of a process by which Orthodox Christians understand themselves to be coming into the temple of God. There is a prayer, prayed by many of my informants during this process, that, drawing on the words of Psalm 5, says ‘I will come into Your house in the greatness of Your mercy: and in fear I will worship toward Your holy temple.’ In these words, one can see the process of approach and entering as a process of positioning the self in the presence of God. What emerges out of Joanna’s movement into the temple is a visual, tactile, and positioned relation to the sacred. The oscillating movement down and up, in metania and veneration (down in repentance, up to kiss), positions the religious subject in a haptic position (Buchli 2010a, b) in front of each holy person in turn. After ‘greeting the family’, as one parishioner likened the act of proskynesis, the subject moves forward and stands facing the ikonostasis and the Holy Table beyond it –such that the person is positioned facing forward toward God. In the context of proskynesis, this human–divine ocular relation is seen within a wider ocular relation of human–human relation, often enabled by material artefacts such as ikons. As such, it can be seen that as Joanna enters the temple she positions herself within a wider intersubjective relational sphere including God, the saints, the clergy, and her fellow parishioners. This process of coming into communion with this cohort of holy personages begins well before she gets inside the temple. As noted above, veiling on the step, praying on the train, attending Great Vespers –and a weekly practice of dietary observation and prayers said at home –all add toward the process of coming into communion in the temple. The next subsection addresses what Orthodox Christianity considers the temple to be. Here, it is given as an ideal type. Chapter 4 develops this more fully in terms of the particularities of St Æthelwald’s parish church and the sensible space of the Orthodox temple within that space. The ideal type is offered here, however, in order to provide an understanding of what parishioners described in this chapter so far are moving toward, and what in the next chapter they are moving out from.
The Orthodox temple In the preceding description of Joanna entering the temple, the ocular and tactile qualities of the space have already been highlighted. Similarly, the orientation of the space has been contrasted with Anglican Christianity, in that proximity and a sort of face-to-face fellowship with the holy are preferred –what is here called an intersubjective subjectivity, rather than the formal orientation of distance and height seen in the Evangelical Anglican
38 People and place example discussed by Strhan (2013). In the Prologue, a brief moment of ritual procession was described. As the servers and clergy exited the Altar, they made an arching pathway around to the back of the nave and then up the middle aisle. The circular motion, filling the space of the temple, is a functional aspect of what the temple is conceived to be. This is something Mircea Eliade (as a Romanian from a religious family) was quite familiar with, and he wrote concerning the Orthodox temple, saying: On the one hand, the church is conceived as imitating the Heavenly Jerusalem, even from patristic times; on the other, it also reproduces Paradise or the celestial world. But the cosmological structure of the sacred edifice still persists in the thought of Christendom; for example, it is obvious in the Byzantine church. ‘The four parts of the interior of the church symbolize the four cardinal directions. The interior of the church is the universe. The altar is paradise, which lay in the East. The imperial door to the altar was also called the Door of Paradise. During Easter week, the great door to the altar remains open during the entire service; the meaning of this custom is clearly expressed in the Easter Canon: “Christ rose from the grave and opened the doors of Paradise unto us.” The West, on the contrary, is the realm of darkness, of grief, of death, the realm of the eternal mansions of the dead, who await the resurrection of the flesh and the Last Judgment. The middle of the building is the earth. According to the views of Kosmas Indikopleustes, the earth is rectangular and is bounded by four walls, which are surmounted by a dome. The four parts of the interior of the church symbolize the four cardinal directions.’7 As ‘copy of the cosmos,’ the Byzantine church incarnates and at the same time sanctifies the world. (Eliade 1987:61–62) Key here is that the temple is an ikon of the universe. And while elsewhere Eliade argues that through ritual ‘every consecrated space coincides with the center of the world’ (1954:20), the Orthodox temple is not the ‘centre’; it is the ‘totality’. As such, the circular pattern of ritual procession encompasses the entire universe. What arises out of the Orthodox use of the space is, as is outlined in Chapter 4, an alternative axis of coherence, one that values an intersubjective ocular proximity (being face to face with each other and with ikons) and processual circularity. Articulating the temple as an ikon of the universe means that parishioners, upon entering the temple, enter into an ikonic relationship within the universe. Informants at St Æthelwald’s did not voice this perspective very often; however, it did arise from time to time. Visual metaphor between the temple and, for example, the ikon of the Hospitality of Abraham allows people to 7 This quotation is, as cited by Eliade (1987:62 n.28), from Hans Sedlmayr, Die Entstehung der Kathedrale, Zurich, 1950, p. 119.
Coming to the Orthodox temple 39 make connections between various tropes of hospitality, dining, and service, as well as cultural categories such as gender. The ikon of the Hospitality, which shows three angelic beings dining at a table, served by Abraham and his wife Sarai,8 is likened to the three ranks of clergy (deacon, priest, bishop) and the people (both male and female) serving the Eucharistic feast. This type of analogical thinking, whereby the formal aspects of the Hospitality ikon points to theological insight about the Eucharist and the Liturgy, is not uncommon in terms of how art works in many contexts. Gell, in putting forth the notion of ‘the extended mind’ (1998:ch. 9), draws the parallel between (a) the relations between artefacts (that is, artefact-to-artefact), (b) the motivic aspects within artefacts (that is, internal harmonies and ratios between parts and within patterns), and (c) the relations between categories and modes of thought within the artist’s mind. This ‘isomorphy of structure’ (ibid.:222) means that the material environment is rich with parallelisms to how people think. The artist’s mind is concretised in the artefactual domain (ibid.:236), on both the motivic level (within a 2D motif) and the artefactual level (between 3D objects). Similarly, in terms of linking formal structures across genre and domain, Bourdieu (1970), in his analysis of the Berber house, maps out correspondence between the structures of the home and the structures of the social. Bourdieu draws out the aspect of the Berber dwelling in which the universe on the inside of the house is the inverse of the universe on the outside. The house, as a type of the universe, is consequently able to form the habitus of both the domestic and the exterior domain. In the case of the temple-as-ikon-of-universe, the correspondence and consequential structuring structure of the temple upon the people is a significant aspect of Orthodox habitus. As will be seen in Chapter 5, bodily practice within the space of the temple (i.e. habitus) is the primary contributing factor in Fr Theophan’s evaluation of the catechumen Niyousha being ready to be received into the Church. The correspondence of the universe inside the temple to the universe outside, however, is not one of inversion. Rather, it is of structural (allegorical9) parallelism between the architectonic and artefactual aspects within the temple, the motivic qualities of the temple-as-ikon, and the social relations (person to person to God to angelic and saintly hosts) of the universe. Because the temple is considered to be an ikon, however, which devotees are able to enter 8 It is in the midst of the event of the Hospitality of Abraham that Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah in recognition of her (promised) transformation from a barren woman to a mother of a nation. 9 Glossing structural as allegorical may be a curious read. As expressed in the Preface, allegory is crucial to the interpretive framework of Orthodox Christianity. It, however, follows certain paths (within traditions of interpretation) and must be deemed (by the speaker and listener) to correspond as a true representation of the actual thing which is being spoken of. Again, as noted in the Preface in quoting the Metropolitan of Aleppo, these are actually apophatic correspondences –that is, following a way of negation (Ware 1993 ), speaking about what cannot be known via partialities and gestures of implication.
40 People and place and participate within, there is slippage between the motivic, the artefactual, and the social. This slippage between the motivic, the artefactual, and the social forces a question concerning the application of this Gellian model. If the temple is motivic and artefactual, and such concretisations in the indexical domain are elements of an ‘extended mind’, whose mind is it? In discussing the concept of the extended mind, Gell argues that the Maori meetinghouse is the objectification of ‘collective’ mind (1998:252–258), and in the Orthodox setting a similar collective idea of mind exists, namely, ‘the mind of the Church’. In fact, when someone lives in an appropriate manner, particularly when their way of life is seen to correspond to that of the Church, they are deemed to ‘have the mind of the Church’. She (the Church), as a thinking thing (personage), is understood to be constituted by Orthodox Christians, in a manner similar to the role of motivic elements within an object. As such, the temple (as the meetinghouse of the Church) is an artefact that can be seen to be an index into which the Orthodox Christian enters as a motivic part. Within the temple (as an ideal type), then, people are able to enter and be within structural relationships that are modelled on and (as a structuring structure) also help form people as part within the Orthodox universe as a whole. Such abstract levels of paradigmatic comparison allow interpretive patterns that map common occurrences, through the slippage between temple-ikon- universe, onto large-scale cosmological cycles. The slippage between ikons, the temple as an ikon, and the metaphoric comparisons that can be made when people step in and out of ikons is highly productive. What Christopher Pinney, as mentioned in the Introduction, calls the ‘torque of the image’ (2005:268) operates as a productive movement and malleability of non-linguistic (philosophical) meanings. Pinney suggests that the materiality of objects and images (what he defines as ‘figural excess’ [ibid.:266, 269]) lies in the ‘torque’ (or ‘alterity’ [ibid.:270]) of the object, an aspect that defies the sorts of purification seen in much thing theory. He uses Barthes’ (1982) discussion of Batailles’ The Story of the Eye to highlight the fluid movements of objects and images toward each other, producing successive movements of ‘wavy meaning’ (Pinney 2005:268). Victor Buchli reads this productive movement of successive images to be akin to the ‘slippage along anaphoric chains’ (Buchli 2013:14–16). The concept of ‘anaphoric chains’ has had a very productive and important genealogy in linguistics since its introduction by Keith Gunderson (1975:204). Buchli uses it, however, not in the strict context of lexical markers and their preceding references10 but instead as a way to speak of the productive slippage between images. Buchli quotes Robert Brandom to exemplify what an anaphoric chain is: 10 For example, in the sentence ‘The Church is our mother; she cares for and nurtures us’, ‘she’ is an anaphora, referring to ‘The Church’. If a priest, in giving a homily, were to continue, saying ‘Let us be attentive to her, and learn from her. She is the means of our salvation’, Gunderson would identify ‘she’, ‘her’, ‘her’, and ‘she’ as an anaphoric chain, linking back to ‘The Church’.
Coming to the Orthodox temple 41 One can grasp an anaphoric chain as one grasps a stick; direct contact is achieved only with one end of it, and there may be much about what is beyond that direct contact of which one is unaware. But direct contact with one end gives genuine if indirect contact with what is attached to the other end. (Brandom 1994:583 as in Buchli 2013:14–15) Such a ‘complex, nonarbitrary relation [of images] to one another, slipping from one register to the next’ (Buchli 2013:15) links multiple relata together in productive association. Buchli moves this away from the analytical context of linguistic theory, moving it more to a general conception of ‘carrying up or back’ (the meaning of ἀναφορά, anaphora) other associated images. The terminology here is potentially confusing, as anaphora has a very particular meaning in Orthodox Christianity, where it refers to the part of the service in which the Eucharist is consecrated.11 Analytically, the slippage between different imagistic domains can be seen as a sort of anaphoric chain. As such, the anaphoric linking of multiple images –the ikon of hospitality, the temple as ikon of the universe, the movement of people within ikonic space –can be seen as a productive movement of objects; each has a torque (by its own materiality) which allows the successive import into other images and people. This subsection provides an ideal type of the temple and a theoretical frame with which to apprehend the social impact of such an image within a practice of abstracted interaction between various images. The fluidity with which Orthodox Christians move between images, forming anaphoric chains, is revisited in the next chapter, and again at the end of the book. The rest of this chapter, however, looks at some of the other parishes which those at St Æthelwald’s regularly visit. Each Orthodox temple, as Eliade reminds us, is a centre. Each temple is an ikon of the universe, and as such, the practice of visiting another parish is much like venerating a different ikon of the Pantokrator from usual.
Visiting other parishes For their part, many in the St Æthelwald’s congregation felt limited by the fact that they did not have a building of their own. This was particularly 11 To avoid confusion, a further note is warranted. The anaphora is a sequence of prayers by which the Holy Spirit is called forth and the elements (bread and wine mingled with water) are consecrated as the Eucharist; it draws upon the words spoken during the Last Supper (twice) as well as, particularly in the case of the anaphora spoken in the Liturgy of St Basil, something of an abbreviated history of the universe. In Western practice, the point wherein the elements are lifted up, called the epiclesis, is seen as the point of consecration. As it has been explained to me, Eastern practice understands the entire anaphora, and even the entire Liturgy, to be the point (as a point experience in duration; see the discussion of the phenomenology of time in Chapter 1) of consecration. In this way, the anaphora may itself be fruitfully considered as an anaphoric chain.
42 People and place true when it came to Great Feasts of the Church, which often fall mid-week. Since St Æthelwald’s was unable to offer these mid-week Liturgies, and likewise unable to hold weekly Great Vespers on Saturday, many of those who were able regularly attended other Orthodox parishes in order to have a fuller experience of the Life of the Church. As such, these parishes are incorporated into the scope of this research, but not in their own right, per se; rather, as extensions of St Æthelwald’s. St George’s By far the closest relationship at the beginning of my research period was the one between St Æthelwald’s and the Cathedral Parish of St George near Regent’s Park. This is the parish out of which St Æthelwald’s grew, and both parishes are under the same episcopal oversight. On most Saturdays, a small handful of St Æthelwald’s congregation, usually including Fr Theophan, would attend St George’s for Vespers. Likewise, for the weeks of Lent, a number of congregants join the handfuls of Arabic speakers, from Syria, the Lebanon and Palestine, at St George’s. As the days progress toward Pascha, more and more of the Arab congregants begin to come to these mid-week services. This was particularly the case in 2012, when the then Metropolitan John [Youhanna] (Yazigi), now Patriarch of Antioch, was visiting from Paris. Here, several hundred people came, with the crowd always in fluctuation as –which is quite common –more people continued to come, some arriving quite late. On most Saturdays, however, the cathedral was populated with only a few individuals. On at least one occasion, I arrived late to find the priest and myself the only two persons in the building. He, standing alone at the kliros (chanter’s stand), beckoned me to come and take his place so that he could go into the Altar and conduct the service. As is discussed in Chapter 8, without someone to act as ‘the people’ and sing the antiphons, a priest cannot conduct a service. He can only stand and chant what is called a ‘reader’s service’. As the period of research began to draw to a close, Fr Theophan began to withdraw from the cathedral. By Pascha 2012, even with Metropolitan John present for Great and Holy Week and the Paschal Liturgy at St George’s Cathedral, Fr Theophan did not accept Sayidna John’s invitation to join and concelebrate the Feast. Instead, seeing the importance of offering the Paschal Liturgy in the local language, he thanked his bishop for the invitation and refused. This was the last time I saw Fr Theophan present for service at the cathedral, and, much to the confusion of those at St George’s, those from St Æthelwald’s rarely visited the cathedral from that time on. St James’ The parish of Saint James is a parish in north London introduced to me by a member of St Æthelwald’s –John –who attends a number of parishes,
Coming to the Orthodox temple 43 mostly in the Greek archdiocese. St James’ offers an English Liturgy on the first Saturday of each month, but otherwise the services are conducted almost exclusively in Greek. St James’ holds services between four and seven days a week, conducted by two retired priests, one of whom is an archimandrite. For mid-week services, most of the congregation is composed of retired Cypriot women. Most of my visits witnessed forty people in attendance, only about five of those being men. This included the two priests, the reader at the chanter’s stand, the server and church administrator, and an older man who sat at the back taking care of the money for candles. For feasts, the numbers grew, but still the number of men as ‘congregants’ was very small. John attends both St Æthelwald’s and St James’, loves both congregations, and was involved, to varying degrees, in both parishes. Like many Britons of Greek descent, John came (back) to Orthodoxy later in life, and continues to study and learn about the faith that is at once ancestral and entirely new. For him, this also includes being in both an English and a Greek language context. Within the context of this book, St James’ holds only a very small part, but ethnographic engagement among this congregation, and others similar to it, provided a formative backdrop against which this book is framed. Participant observation and interviews carried out in these parishes offered critical understanding of the wider context of Orthodoxy in London with which to compare what emerged from St Æthelwald’s. Similarly, outings which St Æthelwald’s parishioners undertook together to sister parishes across London also served to make observable the modes and practices of St Æthelwald’s and wider Orthodox practice. Festal participation The two most common places to which congregants went for festal services – apart from St George’s, and even here I saw a change over the three years – was either the Greek Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain’s Cathedral of St Sophia’s, Bayswater, or the Russian Diocese of Sourozh’s Cathedral of the Dormition and All Saints, Knightsbridge. As previously mentioned, I witnessed an increased attendance at parishes other than St George’s in the final year of fieldwork. This was never openly discussed as a conscious decision in conversations to which I, as a researcher, had access. However, two primary factors seemed to be at play. The first was that the Greek and Russian cathedral parishes were much more populous than the Arabic one, and thus a fuller array of services were held, and this was done more in keeping with the appropriate time. For example, mid-week festal Liturgies should traditionally, I was told, be held in the morning –something that the Antiochian cathedral could not do because of the parishioners’ work schedules. The second reason seemed to come part and parcel with a broader desire on the part of the priest and parish council of St Æthelwald’s to distance themselves from their sister parish lest they be caught in a co-dependent relationship and be absorbed back into the cathedral.
44 People and place Those who could –often students, pensioners, and others with flexible schedules, like the priest –would meet at either Bayswater or Knightsbridge to attend a Liturgy together. After the service, they would go to break the fast together and might be at lunch for four to six hours. These outings, attended by a highly mobile core of the parish, at once demonstrate their unity with and distinction from the wider Orthodox community of London. There is nothing more natural than for an Orthodox person of one Local Church to present herself at another and partake of communion. It is considered good practice for her to make confession before doing so at a Russian parish, in keeping with Russian practice,12 but the Churches –though distinct in language, episcopal hierarchy, and liturgical rite –express unity within the flow of communicants from one jurisdiction to the other. On the other hand, these parish outings grew out of once- monthly family days hosted in the homes of various parishioners. As such, they are still very much centred on the St Æthelwald’s community as a St Æthelwald’s family. In some ways, St Æthelwald’s can be seen to be at the periphery of the periphery of global Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy in Britain is well outside the eastern contexts in which Orthodoxy is primarily seated. And, even within that periphery, St Æthelwald’s sits on the edge; this is seen in the epithet of ‘Anglican Orthodox’ mentioned earlier, as well as in this parish practice discussed here, wherein they go into the central cathedrals of the Russian and Greek Churches in order to celebrate the feasts. It is a position on the edge that the parish seems content to keep. Polite conversation may be made with those at the other cathedrals, but never did I witness express effort to become part of or a fellowship with these other parishes on equal terms, something the St George’s parishioners, on the other hand, were quite adamant in expressing. To their mind, their cathedral parish is St Æthelwald’s cathedral parish, too. After such festal Liturgies, the group of usually four to ten would eat lunch together, and after eating they would walk together to the Underground station and part ways. As a leave-taking, each person asks a blessing – ‘Father, bless.’ –from the priest, by making a short metania, crossing herself, and kissing the right hand of the priest, who, for his part, makes a small sign of the cross over the supplicant and says ‘The blessing of the Lord.’ The small gathering disperses, having visited another parish but never really ventured outside the confines of their own parish community. The parish community moving to another location together can also be seen in their use of pilgrimage, which is discussed in the following chapter.
12 Russian practice involves making confession before each communion –often during or after Vespers the night before, or during Matins, as the priest is able. Greek practice varies much more widely, but it is common to hear the instruction given that the penitent should confess as they feel the need, but four times a year during the Great Fasts is encouraged, or at least once during Great Lent.
3 Here and there
In Orthodox cosmology, saints are grounded to a place: for example, the New Martyrs of Romania, or St Athanasius the Patriarch of Constantinople, or Our Lady of Valaam, or St Spyridon of Trimythous. But I was introduced to the New Martyrs in a small, round, wooden box after dinner with four Canadian theology students in Thessaloniki. I met St Athanasius, or at least his velvet slipper, in a monastery on Mt Athos, which had received the relic from Ukraine –where St Athanasius lived out the end of his life. The Valaamskaya (Валаамская) is the Theotokos as she appeared to the Finno- Russian monastery of Valaam, but her tender assurance, and the historical influence the monks of Valaam had in the missionising of North America, has made her widely popular across the Anglophonic Orthodox Church in the West. St Spyridon of Trimythous lived and died in Cyprus, a shepherd elected to the episcopacy, around the turn of the 4th century. Now in Corfu, he is still quite active and needs to have his straw sandals changed once a year, as he wears them out going about the city aiding those in need. The Orthodox Church recognises the geolocality of the human person, and then obviates the bounded nature of geographical ‘place’ by exporting them in a wide, transnational exchange of relics, ikons, and devotion. At the parish of St James’ one Saturday, for an English-language Liturgy, I was joined by my then two-year-old son. After the service, the assistant priest brought my son a small loaf of antidoron (blessed bread) and a 4 × 7 cm laminated ikon of St Spyridon. ‘A blessing for your son’, he tells me, ‘this is St Spyridon of Trimythous. He is in my home town of Corfu.’ The universality of the saints lets them go anywhere and everywhere. But they, being people, tend to travel along routes of personal connection. It is very common, when travelling in Orthodox circles, to be given small card or laminate ikons. These are usually of Christ as Pantokrator, or of his crucifixion, or of various appearances of the Theotokos, but it is not uncommon to be given an ikon of St Nicholas of Myra, the patron of travellers, or simply a saint beloved of the person giving. During fieldwork I accumulated a neat little stack of these – handed to me over a cup of coffee while waiting in port, or shoved into a hand by a monk wanting to impart a blessing before leaving the monastery. Over the three years I also entered into the exchange, passing these cards off to
46 People and place other travellers in what at times feels like a collectors’ game of holy sportmen. Sometimes they would be given on their own; sometimes bottles of holy oil or bags of antidoron would be included, too. These cards are carried in a jacket pocket, a wallet, or a backpack’s pouch along with a prayer book. Monasteries sell them for 10p or stick a small stack of them into book orders. The plethora of particles of the holy moving about, tracing paths along with people moving about the Orthodox world on business or pilgrimage (and often, the two can go together) is not seen to degrade their worth. This is a flow of people and things, and things which have properties of people, which is unaffected by issues of degraded value through simulation and reproduction (cf. Phillips 1998; Townsend-Gault 2004). Each paper ikon, each giving and taking, is a blessing. This is not to say there is not Orthodox kitsch –there is, and opinions are expressed against this sort of thing from time to time. But, there appears a distinction between items of veneration, such as ikons, relics, and holy oil or water, and things of devotion, such as items of décor, or overly dressed prayer ropes or books. These categories blur, with some pictures scraping the margins between ikon and decoration. But even these are moved (or removed) along highly fluid chains of fleeting acquaintance –bonds of affinity that may have been expressed in nothing more than the shared veneration of a paper ikon. These paper ikons, nonetheless, come home. They, along with prayer ropes, bottles of holy oil, and often a devotional book, remain on or about the person’s body or placed in the home –often, as we will see in the final chapter, on the home altar or ikon corner. The most common means of circulation are along pathways of personal pilgrimage.
Personal pilgrimage Throughout my period of research, many people also left on personal pilgrimage to various locations across Britain, Europe, and the Near East. It was not always clear to what extent pilgrimage and tourism could be separated, but from conversations and watching Facebook feeds, it was obvious that many holidays taken during Britain’s generous five weeks of annual leave were planned specifically to place the individual in Orthodox contexts. Favoured places included Durham (to visit St Cuthbert), Crete, Cyprus, Greece (especially Thessaloniki and Mt Athos), and Romania. Others had familial or sentimental ties to specific regions and would visit Cyprus, the Crimea, Egypt, or the Levant yearly. While these places are clearly well outside the parish ward of St Æthelwald’s, I began to track the movement of people and things along these paths of pilgrimage. Many of the items seen in the homes (and on the bodies) of the parishioners originated in these distant places of pilgrimage, and to take seriously the material ecology in which my informants found themselves meant taking into consideration why and how these items entered into their homes and wardrobes. Taking seriously this pilgrimatic practice also
Here and there 47 meant experiencing pilgrimage as part of fieldwork. Along with the parish pilgrimages discussed shortly, I also undertook a research pilgrimage to the Monastery of Vatopedi on Mt Athos, first in August–September 2011 and again in September 2012, for a total of six weeks. Mt Athos is considered to be a spiritual heart of global Orthodoxy and has been a monastic democratic theocracy since the 10th century. Because of its honoured place within Orthodox spirituality, it is a highly popular place for pilgrimage; many men –women and children are not allowed on the peninsula –make plans to visit it, and many do so annually. Many sacred items (such as oil and ikons) in homes come from Mt Athos. Vatopedi also has a considerable collection of liturgical fabrics and fabric relics –chief among them a camel-hair belt said to have been woven and worn by the Panagia Theotokos (All-Holy Mother of God), Mary. Several informants instructed me that I could not understand what fabric is in Orthodox worship without making pilgrimage to Mt Athos and the Agia Zone1 (the Holy Belt, discussed in Chapter 9). These two periods on Mt Athos allowed long interviews with roughly three dozen pilgrims from Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Syria, Italy, Spain, England, the United States, and Australia. Participant observation with the monastic brothers allowed access to daily ritual participation as well as gardening practice and the tailor shop. If St Æthelwald’s is on the periphery of the periphery of Orthodoxy, Vatopedi is among the centre of the centre. Among the twenty monasteries that comprise the theocratic republic of Mount Athos, Vatopedi holds the second place of honour, next only to the Great Lavra Monastery, which was founded first. It was this monastery whose financial dealings with the Greek government in 2008 came to implicate it as party to the economic crisis. The abbot, Geronda (Elder) Ephraim, has since been arrested, and exonerated, but the Greek opinion of the monastery and the Geronda during my research was still mixed and heart-felt. Outside Greece, Vatopedi is also quite well known. It is a spiritual retreat of the Crown Prince of Britain (BBC 2004), and Geronda has been flown (apparently by public purse) to hear the confession of Vladimir Putin (Brousou 2011). The monastery has been in close relation with dignitaries and governments since its aristocratic founding in the 10th century upon the site of an earlier monastery, itself founded on the site of an ancient church founded by, the account goes, the Emperor Constantine. Outside the press, and outside Greece, there seems to be little concern about the darker tales told of Vatopedi. To those at St Æthelwald’s, the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopedi is just that: holy and great. Very few men do not at some point express desire to go to Mt Athos, and several women voice desire to do so, even though they may never be able to –for the entire peninsula of Mt Athos is kept as an all-male monastic state, and has been since the 10th century. My introduction to the monastery was through a priest who
1 ‘Zone’ is a transliteration of ζὡνη (belt or cincture) and is pronounced zṓnē.
48 People and place
Figure 3.1 Reliquary of the Agia Zone.
often visited St Æthelwald’s. After choosing the path of the hieromonk, he was sent to Vatopedi for a year. It is a typical thing for monastic priests living outside a monastery to be sent to one for a period of time early in their vocation to help them gain a solid grounding. As I was beginning to arrange my fieldwork, the priest had just returned to the United Kingdom for a brief time, and encouraged me to pursue research at Vatopedi –not least because of their collection of textiles, including the relic of the Holy Belt of the Panagia (see Figure 3.1). Aided by his introduction, I secured permission to stay at the monastery for a month, from 1 August to 1 September 2011 (on the Julian Calendar).2 As this period drew to a close, I received instruction from the 2 Mt Athos, like many Orthodox Churches globally, follows the Julian Calendar. The Julian Calendar, also known in Orthodox contexts as the ‘old calendar’ or ‘old style’, runs 13 days behind the Gregorian Calendar, which is known as the ‘new calendar’ or ‘new style’. They may be seen abbreviated as o.s. and n.s., respectively.
Here and there 49 abbot to return during a slower period of their year, something I did from 28 August to 8 September 2012 (o.s.). These two stints gave me a total of six weeks living, working, and praying with the brothers. Along with the participation in the daily life of work, prayer, and rest which the brothers keep, these periods in Mt Athos, and in Thessaloniki travelling to and from the monastery, offered invaluable data concerning wider, global practice of Orthodoxy. Thessaloniki is a centre of theological education, which draws students from North America, Syria, and Romania –to name just a few with whom I was able to carry out interviews. Most pilgrims to Mt Athos were Orthodox, but a handful of non-Orthodox pilgrims were present during each visit. The usual pattern of pilgrimage allows a three-night visa (diamonitirion), and pilgrims are expected to move to a different monastery each night. The extended stay which I was granted is unusual, but not unheard of. Several individuals I met in 2011 returned in 2012, and told me they came each year for a period of several days or up to two months. Mt Athos proved to be a very fruitful aspect within the overall project, and subsequent chapters return to it at several points to help draw contrast and comparison to the ethnography arising from the London fieldsite. The presence of Mt Athos within this book is, in fact, somewhat similar to the presence of Mt Athos within the primary fieldsite in London. Many homes have within them ikons, holy oil, or other ritual paraphernalia that is sourced on Mt Athos, and the peninsula holds a special place in the imagination and inspiration of Orthodox Christians.
Group pilgrimages Far-off places like Mt Athos, however, were not the only sites of pilgrimage, and the local Orthodox communities sought to celebrate the local Orthodox history through regional and parish pilgrimages within England. Barking Abbey A significant regional pilgrimage is the annual Pilgrimage to Barking Abbey, which draws a number of those from St Æthelwald’s as well as its sister parish in Essex and various parishes in the Greater London area. As I have argued at length elsewhere (Carroll 2015), the ruins of Barking Abbey are seen as relics of a vibrant Orthodox witness from its 7th-century founding by St Erkenwald, bishop of London, and his sister St Æthelburga. As material retentions of the ancient Orthodox Church, the ruins of Barking allow the modern Church to participate in an ancient presence of Orthodoxy. In a May 2011 newsletter from the Essex parish, circulated in anticipation of the second Barking pilgrimage, the following call was given: The Holy Monastery at Barking was founded in the mid-seventh century by St Erkenwald, who later became Bishop of the East Saxons, with St
50 People and place Paul’s as his cathedral. The first Abbess was St Ethelburga, who ruled with St Hildelith as her spiritual guide. Other Orthodox saints also are connected with Barking, and we celebrate them all in this pilgrimage to a place which should be a centre of great devotion. Join us for this celebration of holiness, the holiness of our own region. (Emphasis in original) Barking Abbey is now, since the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII, a ruin. There is no Orthodox chapel at Barking, and if the weather allows, the services are held out in the open, among the ruins themselves. Here the stones and mortar are the only material things that house testament to the saints, but this is enough. The continuity of location is itself enough to make Barking a holy site. As the announcement says, this is ‘holiness, the holiness of our own region’. In a manner similar to the recursive relationship which Charles Stewart (2012) identifies between the Greek people and the history hidden within their island landscape, the Orthodox communities of St Æthelwald’s and their sister parish respond to place-specific revelation about the sacred. There is nothing particularly sacred about Barking now, per se, but the social biography of the land bears upon the contemporary Church as a responsibility and potential reward. The saints of Barking are commemorated at each service in St Æthelwald’s in recognition of their importance to the local expression of Orthodox Christianity. The proximity of the Barking saints and their role within parishioners’ piety, and specifically Joanna’s, return to the fore in the Epilogue. Our Lady of Walsingham, Norfolk The second pilgrimage addressed here was started in the Spring of 2012 as a parish pilgrimage to Little Walsingham in Norfolk to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, timed to coincide with the eve of the Annunciation. The vision of Mary the Theotokos in 1061 falls in a short period of English history after the Great Schism (when the Patriarchate of Rome left the Orthodox Church) but before the Conquest (when William the Bastard extended papal control over the English Church). As such, the original site and the still extant (rediscovered) well are commonly held as a holy site by most Orthodox Christians.3 Roughly thirty-five parishioners and friends travelled together to Little Walsingham in a hired coach. There, they held a brief service of supplication, the Small Paraklesis (service of supplication) to the Most Holy Theotokos; then, after a break for lunch and some time to explore the village, the group met again in the small upstairs chapel for Vespers. The Orthodox chapel is tucked in a corner at the northeast corner of the Anglican Shrine. 3 It is worth noting that not all Orthodox are particularly fond of Our Lady of Walsingham. I heard one voice from within the parish protest that her veneration was post-Schism and thus not suitable.
Here and there 51 Situated in a portico near the belfry, the Russian Diocese of Sourozh has set up a small chapel that holds roughly fifteen, standing room only. Those who could not fit into the space spilled out and down the stairs and back along the belfry. After the services, the pilgrims either stayed in the chapel to pray or went down and looked around the larger Anglican premises. Toward the back of the Shrine is the holy well, and as is common among British Christians, many of the pilgrims drank of this water and filled up bottles to take home with them. Back in London the next morning, as part of the Feast of the Annunciation, the parish of St Æthelwald’s processed out onto the High Street, carrying a large ikon of Our Lady of Walsingham. The ikon has become a regular part of the community’s worship and is now used at each Feast of the Theotokos for processions (see Figure 1.1). The success of the pilgrimage engendered discussion of making it a yearly tradition. This new communal pilgrimage fits within a larger goal of Fr Theophan’s, to see England be returned to the Theotokos and once again become ‘Mary’s Dowry’. It also serves as part of an on-going normalising regime, drawing the parishioners into a more conscious practice of the saints through interaction with the relics and places of the saints.
Materiality of place and thing This chapter has, thus far, highlighted the movement of people and things across various boundaries (ecclesiastical, linguistic, geographical, national). The nature of Orthodox religious devotion is simultaneously deeply inscribed within specific times and places and rather dismissive of any boundedness this specificity may suggest. Earlier, in Chapter 2, I outlined the notion of the anaphoric chain and the inter-artefactual and motivic domains of relation. This section now draws together this idea of anaphoric association in order to explicate the theoretical adaptation of anaphoric chain here used and frame the understanding of place carried into the subsequent chapters. There are three aspects to this. The first two relate to the productive abstraction of images: namely, Fr Theophan’s interpretation of Fr Gabriel’s time of death and his emphasis on Our Lady of Walsingham. The third relates to the imagistic abstraction of place. Fr Theophan interpreted the time of his predecessor’s death as indication that he heard the talanton and joined the Heavenly Liturgy. By giving this interpretation, Fr Theophan implied that his predecessor went straight to heaven, but Fr Theophan did so within a framework of Orthodox monasticism and liturgical orientation. As such, he was able to navigate a profoundly curious terrain. In Orthodoxy there is usually considered to be a period of testing which the soul of the dead endures (usually forty days, though three and seven are also important periods); this, however, was not a view held by everyone in the parish at the time, many of whom were still prone to follow a more popular belief that good souls went straight to heaven. By saying his predecessor joined
52 People and place the Heavenly Liturgy, Fr Theophan offered a scenario wherein his repose could fit within frameworks familiar to both the more evangelically inclined parishioners and those more familiar with the passage of the soul after death as Orthodox tradition holds it.4 His interpretation, however, should not be seen as syncretism, as he did not simply say that Fr Gabriel went to heaven. Instead, he worked within a cascading set (an ‘anaphoric chain’) of images and likenesses in order to imply that his predecessor was saintly –and used the obvious implication of his interpretation to teach his parish about prayers to and on behalf of the dead, and the process of canonisation. This deserves a brief summary: Fr Theophan used the time of death to pin a highly powerful image of monks (who by implication here are holy men) being called to prayer, implying –in a sort of metaleptic reference –that Fr Gabriel was holy. In making such a claim, he was able to comfort a number of formerly evangelical parishioners for whom Fr Gabriel’s passing was particularly painful, and teach the parish about prayers for the dead. This second aspect resulted from the fact that the formal recognition of the sainthood of the dead is a lengthy process. In the interim, Fr Theophan taught his mourning parish that Fr Gabriel could be prayed for (‘Have mercy, O Lord, on the soul of your departed servant’) and to (‘If you have found favour in the eyes of God, pray for us’). It was well known at the time that Fr Theophan did not agree with everything Fr Gabriel did, and over the subsequent two years much work was done by Fr Theophan to change how things worked in the parish. Using the abstracting implications of imagistic language, however, Fr Theophan was able to smooth the transition. The one concrete thing (the moment of death) served to bring two visual fields (the monastery and heaven) together and imply that his predecessor went straight to heaven within a framework that is wholly within Orthodox cosmology. Another example of productive abstraction can be seen in the earlier account of the devotion to the Theotokos, Our Lady of Walsingham. Fr Theophan took an object (ikon) given to him, used its iconic similitude to the Virgin to whom a Catholic king gave England as a dowry, and thereby positioned her as a mainstay of the parish’s communal veneration. At no point in England’s Orthodox Christian past was England given to Our Lady in this way, but by playing a sort of connect-the-dots, the priest is able to introduce a narrative in which England belongs to the Theotokos. This is a highly political act and done by Fr Theophan very purposefully. As previously mentioned, he credits her with the growth of the parish. This 4 This is a point of some theological controversy and a topic of post-Liturgy lunch conversations from time to time. A common point of discussion is the so-called ‘toll houses’, which gained popularity in English-speaking Orthodoxy following the teaching of the hieromonk Seraphim (Rose). Considered a saint by some, he was often the subject of lively discussion and disagreement. An excellent resource on Orthodox teaching on the soul after death, made available only after this research was completed, can be found in The Departure of the Soul According to the Teaching of the Orthodox Church, compiled and published by St Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery (2017).
Here and there 53 can, of course, be read as either that Mary has blessed the parish for being devoted to her, or that the emphasis on an English Mary helps consolidate the ‘right’ kind of parishioners. It is also unnecessary, as far as this book is concerned, to see a conflict between these two readings. As will be seen in the following chapters, the practical (or political) and the spiritual need not be purified categories. Following his discussion of the torque of materiality’s excess, Pinney presents the idea of ‘cataracts of objects’ (2005:269), arguing against the purifying tendency in material culture studies. Rather than addressing the smoothness of the subject/object dialectical influence (wherein people make things and things make people), Pinney argues for objects and images to be viewed as ‘densely compressed performances unfolding in unpredictable ways’ (ibid.). As such, an object’s materiality may spill out, torqueing in excess, into other objects. This fluidity and unpredictability of objects, and the capacity of images to flow within anaphoric chains, is a highly productive quality of items within a material ecology. What should now be seen, in the traced circle of this chapter, is that place, too, is a sort of ‘cataract’, such that the materiality of, for example, Corfu spills out, moving to London, taking the saintly blessing of a man from Cyprus into the home of an ethnographer. In order to provide a more concrete example of how place can cataract, this next subsection follows the churchwarden, Chris, as he and a few others arrange the temple one Sunday morning during the forty days of Pascha which follow the Feast of the Resurrection. It lays the groundwork for discussion of transformation, more fully developed in Part II of the book. The account takes particular note of the use of vestments in the dressing of the building. Following Orthodox convention, ‘vestment’ is used here to include any item of cloth or adornment that is used to dress the moveable furnishings of the temple. This includes altar clothes, lectern covers, and ikon stand (analogion) covers, as well as rugs and –though not seen in St Æthelwald’s –banners, sashes, and –as is common in Greek churches –flags. While there are technical terms for each of these items (see West 2013 for a good compendium), often in English multiple names exist, depending on what source language they were derived from. For the sake of readability, some standardisation has been undertaken, privileging which technical terms people at St Æthelwald’s most commonly used to refer to items. It should be noted that, at one end of the spectrum, the priest oftentimes uses the technical Greek and Slavonic term (often giving both), and at the other end, some lay members simply call things ‘the table cloth’ or ‘that thing over the thing’, using gestures to indicate which thing.
Vesting the temple In late Pascha, I arrived at the parish early, as Chris had agreed to meet me and walk me through the process by which he sets up the temple. I arrive at
54 People and place 8:50 a.m. as the caretaker, Harvey, who is hired by the Anglican parish from which the Orthodox congregation of St Æthelwald’s rents its space, opens the great doors. St Æthelwald’s Church of England parish church is a 20th- century restoration of an 18th-century reconstruction of a parish church dating to the Roman period. Inside, the wood-panelled central nave and balcony are inscribed with the names of clergy serving back into the 13th century. The outer brick walls are, on the inside, plastered over with a number of war memorials inset into the walls and window recesses. An east-facing high altar (that is, where the priest faces away from the people) is flanked with mosaics of St John the Apostle and Moses, and a large stained-glass window shows a crucifixion, not so much as an historical scene, but as it is venerated by an Anglican bishop, a young girl, and St Longinus. A small Lady Chapel hosts an ikon of the Russian Mother of God, Our Lady of the Don, and at the back of the parish, facing this ikon, is another of the Virgin Mary, but of rather more modern rendering. Beyond these three representational pieces of art, the next most noticeable features are the organ pipes, the chandeliers, and the small dome –described by one informant as the ‘church cupcake’. The nave is long and slender. While the area in which there are pews is not particularly long, it is the same distance again from the back of the nave up to the first pew as it is from there up to the Anglican high altar. A stark black and white stone floor in the main nave gives way to grey and white, and eventually white and yellow marble as one walks from the back of the building toward the front. Between the patterning on the floor, the narrow construction of the walls, and the slight increase in elevation toward the front of the building, the St Æthelwald’s parish building, like its close neighbour St John’s (Strhan 2013), discussed in the previous chapter, gives the sense of looking up and far off toward a source of light and divine inspiration. As the clergy and choir in an Anglican Mass process forward, they pass through the congregation and upward to places of increased light. Harvey meanders about the place, cleaning random items he finds out of place. He notices that the (Anglican) Christ Candle, which is to remain lit at all times, has gone out, and he goes into the Lady Chapel in the north aisle to get down the remnants of wax. Fetching a new candle, he lights it and pops it into place. He is an older gentleman, English, and has lived and worked caring for Anglican parishes in London for much of his adult life. When he retired six years earlier, his wife, who worked as a cleaner at this parish, got him a job as a caretaker. It was supposed to be just a part-time arrangement, but over the years he has slowly taken on more hours, and is now working just as many hours as he had before he retired. I ask him what he thinks of the Orthodox congregation using the space, to which he replies with a laugh, ‘They’re alright, I guess. [I]don’t mind who does what in these buildings, I’m not Christian, you know –don’t go in for religion. It’s a job I enjoy doing, and the buildings are pretty.’ He is glad that the Anglicans, the Orthodox, and the Ethiopian nonconformist congregation are each able to use the space at
Here and there 55 different points in the week. At a point later toward summer, he showed me a photo of himself serving as a verger5 in an Anglican Mass, ‘Look, that’s me there, serving as a verger for the bishop of Tanzania. Can you believe it?’ Always willing to help when and whom he can (as long as it does not keep him from getting home in time for his Sunday roast), he steps in when the Anglicans are short-staffed, and potters around moving into place the large oak table which will become the Holy Table. When Chris arrives, just after 9 a.m., Harvey retreats out of the way into the back office. He makes himself available if anyone needs anything, but generally sits out the Liturgy either in the back office or, as the weather allows, in the parish square gardens. He enjoys tending the candle stand; but, save for ‘playing in the sand’, as he describes it, he keeps well out of the way of the Orthodox ritual space. Chris greets us both and gets right to work, gathering the keys from the back office; he opens the various closets and storage spaces that the Anglican parish has let the Orthodox parish use. Chris moves the large oak table (Harvey had situated it too far forward), and then brings the ikons, processional crucifix and fans (flabella, or ripidia), tabernacle, and candle stands out from where they are stored behind the Anglican high altar. He arranges these about the quire,6 the space that will come to be the Holy Altar. He then takes one of the large high-backed chairs and places it front and centre, with its back against the Anglican high altar. On either side of this, he sets two low-backed chairs, forming the three seats of the bema, or Seat of Judgement, reserved for the bishop. He then goes and collects the items and boxes from a broom closet below the bell tower. He stands aside before pulling things out, letting me appreciate how well things are packed in, making use of what space they have available to them. With a few trips he has brought out the censer; the candles which will be set before Christ and the Theotokos on the ikonostasis; the folding table used for the prothesis; the two blue Tupperware® boxes containing the utensils of Proskomedia (the service of preparation for the wine, bread, and water that will be used in the Eucharist) and those of the Holy Table, respectively; and the wooden ‘fire box’ with the incense and utensils for the lighting and care of the censer. From the closet under the stairs, he pulls the music stand used by the reader; the two large wooden stands used for the right and left portions of the ikonostasis; and the folding frame upon which is set the sand box for votive candles. Each of these items of furniture he carries to its place within the slowly assembled temple. Seraphim, a young man who came to help Chris, arrived during this stage, and helped arrange the ikonostasis, with the four ikons showing Christ, the Theotokos, John the Forerunner, and the patron 5 In an Anglican context, a verger is usually a lay official who leads an episcopal procession, carrying the verge (or rod, staff) of office. 6 The quire (pronounced choir) is the forepart of an Anglican nave, wherein the choir stands during mass.
56 People and place
Figure 3.2 Chris moving the north half of the ikonostasis out of storage.
of the parish. It is only with the placement of the ikons on the ikonostasis that the building begins to look discernibly Orthodox, and even so the large painted glass window dominates the visual field of the building. Standing back from the small ikonostasis, Seraphim turns to me. ‘If I had my way’, he starts, ‘if we owned the building, the first thing I’d do is build a right-proper ikonostasis.’ He then proceeds to explain the architectural renovation that would be needed –which walls to move, where to add this, where to get rid of that. His primary critique of the building is twofold. First, it is too long, and as such there is wasted space up front. The Lady Chapel should be changed into the vestry; the most easterly portion of the nave, with the stained-glass window and the high Anglican altar, gutted and made into an office for the priest. The second critique is that the building is visually sparse. ‘We need to get an ikonographer in here’, he tells me, ‘the walls should be covered in ikons. The ikonostasis’, and here he lifts his hands, taking into account the great expanse of imagined architectural emendations, ‘the ikonostasis first and foremost.’ Even in the upward motion of the imagined ikonostasis, Seraphim did not imagine it going particularly far. Up to the level of the banister of the loft, yes, but an ikonostasis should never, I was told, be so tall that one cannot see who is in the ikons along the top. For great feasts, such as during the period of Pascha, parishioners set up every ikon in the parish they could find. Working to correct the general sparseness of the parish, ikons were placed on the ledges, lining the walls, around each pillar, and on any other flat surface large
Here and there 57
Figure 3.3 Chris fetching the epitaphios.
enough to host a Blu-Tack® mounting. Seraphim’s desire to see the whole parish covered in ikons was not uniquely his own, and for the forty days of Pascha, extra effort was taken to make the saints visible. For most of the year, however, the parish made do with the small ikonostasis, an ikon placed at each of the four main pillars of the church, and the three analogia at which Joanna performed proskynesis in Chapter 2. By 9:20, Reader Romanos arrives, ready to arrange his texts for the day on the stand recently pulled from storage. Meanwhile, Chris, having finished moving the furniture stored downstairs, heads up the narrow wooden stairs to the loft. He grabs an analogion –what is in essence a skeletal plinth wrapped in rich brocade –covered in the same fabric used to dress the three tables in the Altar. He lifts it carefully, not wanting to topple the ikon that rests atop the inclined surface. Feeling his way with the heel of his shoe, he walks blind down the staircase, and carries the ikon stand to the back of the nave. He straightens the cloth cover and heads back upstairs for the next. One by one he carries them down the stairs, setting them in place: one at the main entrance with the festal ikon; one to the south at the back of the centre aisle with Christ and St John the Forerunner; one to the north, across from the latter, with the Theotokos and St Æthelwald. He sets these in place and immediately turns to fetch the next. Later I see him go back, after everything is in place, to venerate each. I ask him why he does not do this before, combining his two tasks, and venerate each as he arranged them; he pauses. Upon reflection, he ascribes a
58 People and place didactic meaning to my question that I did not intend and says ‘You know you’re right, I probably should kiss them before I move them, and after I have set them in place –Father’s always talking about the importance of that sort of thing. But, you know, it doesn’t feel like the temple till they’re in place and the Holy Table is arranged, and I find it nice to wait till it’s the temple to say my prayers. When I’m setting things up, I wanna get it done.’ By this time, at about 9:25 a.m., other members of the choir are arriving, and as they come in they greet each other and the ikons. As it is the Paschal season, there are a number of additional items to arrange, including the epitaphios. Chris pulls the large embroidered cloth ikon out from its protective plastic cover atop the old organ where it is kept. This he rests over the ledge of the choir stalls, ready to be placed on the Holy Table once the altar vestments have been laid out. After fetching these down from upstairs, he begins to lay them out over the various furnishings. Over the lectern he drapes a long analogion cover. Over the large table he carefully unfolds the custom-made white satin vestment which Anna, Subdeacon Nicholas’ wife, made when they first started renting the building in the late 1990s. He carefully situates it to be smooth and aligned such that the embroidered cross stitched on the front flap falls even and centred. Once these white garments are in place, Chris moves the epitaphios into place on the soon-to-be Holy Table (as in Figure 4.4). He then moves the candles up onto the table, along with the small brass tabernacle. At this point (roughly 9:50 a.m.), Subdeacon Nicholas arrives, and Chris leaves the altar area for the subdeacon to finish arranging. Subdeacon Nicholas arranges things on two small tables, which Chris has set up off to the side of the Holy Table. He pulls items out of two blue Tupperware® banker boxes and places them on the two tables. Most items he places on the midsized table of prothesis (‘a setting forth’). Nicholas arranges the utensils that the priest will later use to prepare the wine, water, and bread for the Liturgy. Having set up the tables and prepared the tablecloths, Chris leaves the area behind the ikonostasis. He tells me that he is allowed to be in there, as an Orthodox man with a priest’s blessing to do so, but, and he wriggles his shoulders, ‘I just don’t like being in there once it’s …’ and he trails off, with a long gaze toward the space in which he had not ten minutes prior bustled about, taking full command of the space. He snaps back from the gaze. ‘Well’, he says, ‘follow me, there’s more work to be done.’ Again dashing up the stairs, and back down again, Chris unrolls a Persian rug, situating it in the centre of the solea. This item is only brought out for feasts, to create a space for the veneration of a festal ikon or for the positioning of a small table for a special service. On this particular Sunday, still in the season of Pascha, the rug is used to create the space for the ikon of the Resurrection. As far as I was able to discern, no one knows where the rug came from. One person suggested it was gifted to the parish early in its history; another suggested Fr Gabriel gave it to the parish from one of his travels; Fr Gabriel’s wife thought it belonged to the Anglicans and suspected it was
Here and there 59
Figures 3.4 and 3.5 Chris unrolling the rug for the festal ikon on the solea.
not theirs at all. Ultimately, the provenance did not appear to be important in the slightest. What was important was that the festal ikon of the Resurrection needed something special to be placed under it in order for its placement to be accorded a dignity worthy of its own holy status. Chris uses a litany desk from the Anglican sanctuary as an analogion to position the ikon at a low slanted position allowing it to be venerated during a low bow. This, however, is augmented with a white altar vestment. The piece in question was made for the small table that is used as the small table altar. For use on the litany desk, whoever is dressing the table, Chris in this case, folds the left and right wings of the cross-shaped textile under its centre portion. In this way the fabric is not ideal for the situation, but the congregation make do with what they have, adjusting in each case for what is most appropriate. Chris finishes arranging the festal ikon atop the analogia cover, vested over the litany desk, upon the rug on the solea about 9:55 a.m. This coincides with Fr Theophan arriving and Subdeacon Nicholas completing the arrangement of the Holy Table, the table of prothesis, and the server’s table. Here, inside the Altar, one is surrounded by sacred things. And while, twenty minutes before, Chris had been bustling about as if he owned the place, at this point he does not enter. As described earlier, an ethnographic question concerning Chris’s devotional practice was interpreted as having a
60 People and place didactic intent. Chris’s answer is interesting, as it exemplifies how easily Chris is willing to take correction, even from a source not intending it as such. His response to my ethnographic question, interpreting it as a didactic instruction, was typical of the response many informants had to my questions – abducing my question as an index of correction rather than enquiry. Within this Orthodox constitution of an intersubjective space of religious devotion, anyone or anything –even a social scientist –may be a means of spiritual correction.7 Within Chris’s home, he keeps ikons on almost every wall, on bookshelves, atop the piano and windowsill. These he regularly venerates, particularly those in his ikon corner. However, the domain of the ikons in the not-yet-temple remained an area to which Chris had not yet applied the highly salient theological instruction given by Fr Theophan. I, operating with an interest in techniques of religious practice, asked what I thought was a tactical question, yet it triggered in Chris a connection, such that he enacted it as a piece of theological instruction.
Summary In this final case study, boundaries are troubled in important ways. The possibility of the Anglican (heterodox) space becoming the Holy Altar of the Orthodox Liturgy is explored in more depth in the next chapter. In the reorientation of the ethnographer from scientific observer to spiritual instructor, however, we can see a further disregard for normal boundaries. The chapter troubles the purified distinctions between place, different types of people, and types of artefacts. While place and origin are held to be important in the constitution of the shape of a person’s or place’s biography (what ikonographer Christabel Helena Anderson calls ‘the biomorphic character’ [Carroll 2015]), the cases discussed here highlight the fluid succession of images, persons, and places as things move, shift, and reorient themselves within the religious practice of Orthodox Christians. This capacity to move and the transformations that result from this are more fully developed in the book’s second part.
7 My experience is somewhat unique in this regard. Because Fr Theophan enjoyed conversing with me, and because the congregation has a great deal of respect for scholars, many in the parish saw my work –studying Orthodox Christian material culture, in regular conversation with the priest –as an indication that I knew things about Orthodoxy. Colleagues in other Orthodox contexts, and especially female colleagues, even if they actually do study Theology formally, are often not given this kind of deferential respect. When I was at other parishes which did not know me as well, such as St James’, I was often treated, quite endearingly, like a dumb child.
4 Making sacred space
The previous three chapters provide a view of things, as it were, how they are: the geography, the people, the movement of people and things across both local and quite expanded cycles of pilgrimage, and the practice of refitting Anglican space as an Orthodox temple. In this view of how things are, however, there is a hint of something else. Chris’s shrugged hesitance about things ‘in there’ shows that things are no longer simply as they are. This set of three chapters expands on this aspect, looking at how things may become more than what they are, and how people may –depending on the idiom used –either become Orthodox or become more fully human. At the end of the last chapter, the clergy of St Æthelwald’s were standing in the Altar. Here, Reader Romanos and Fr Theophan confer about the variables for the day. Each is dressed in their rason; the reader wears just an esorason, which he will cover with a white sticharion before starting to intone Orthros (Matins). The priest, having not yet said kairon prayers (discussed in Chapter 7), is in esorason and exorason (inner and outer cassock, respectively), pectoral cross, and soft (velvet) skufos. To the side is the table of prothesis and then a small table which, within the parish, is simply called ‘the servers’ table’. Each is vested with a simple satin cover with a cotton lining. About the edges of the horizontal surface is a trim of gold galloon. At the face, as with the Holy Table vestments, is positioned a gold embroidered cross. On the table of prothesis, two red napkins and three white veils with gold tasselled trim await Proskomedia (the service of preparation for the elements of the Eucharist). One napkin rests atop the chalice, protecting it from unwanted debris falling inside. The second is unfolded underneath the prosphoron in order to catch any crumbs that may fall from the loaf once it is blessed. Both these napkins have fundamentally practical purposes; each, however, has also taken on a certain quality of sacred meaning. The first shrouds the place that will hold and has held the Eucharist, which in Orthodox practice is fed to the communicant on a spoon straight from the chalice. It is used when distributing the Eucharist, ensuring that none of the sacred Body and Blood is dropped; and it is also dabbed against the lips of communicants to ensure no drop or crumb is left unconsumed. Once consecrated, the Body and Blood are shrouded again with this napkin each time the chalice is moved: from the Holy Table to the
Figure 4.1 Napkin over chalice.
Making sacred space 65 ambon to commune the people; from the ambon to the Holy Table after the communion of the people; and from the Holy Table back to the table of prothesis, where the remainder of the divine food will be consumed by the priest.1 The second napkin, though not nearly so closely connected with the body of Christ, nonetheless carries a sacerdotal quality because of its function within the Eucharistic sacrifice. To the left of the loaf beneath the priest’s service book, the Liturgikon, are the three veils. As seen in the Prologue, these are used to cover the diskos (the plate), which holds the bread, and the chalice, which holds the mingled wine and water; the third (called the aër) covers both when set on the Altar, and is positioned over the priest’s shoulders during the procession, known as the Great Entrance, described in the Prologue.2 Again, these are understood by the priest to have both a purely functional role and a sacred meaning. Fr Theophan explains that they are for keeping away the flies. He also points out, however, that as one of the classic, ancient names for the devil is Beelzebub, that is, ‘Lord of the flies’, things which keep away flies are likened to Christ’s triumph over the devil. In this way, these veils and napkins come to be understood as implicit within the salvific work of Christ’s Eucharistic Incarnation. On one weekend when Fr Theophan was away attending to duties elsewhere in England, a brother priest was called in to serve the Liturgy in his absence. This priest, during the blessing of the veils, made a point of not only holding them up against the censer while reciting the prayer of blessing, but simultaneously making the sign of the cross over the veils and kissing them in an identical fashion to the vesting prayers, which are discussed at length in Chapter 7. When I enquired about this practice, the priest expressly stated that these veils were vestments for the gifts that were to become Christ. Later, I asked Fr Theophan about this practice. He smiled a wry smile and said, ‘No, that is not right. It is not wrong either, however.’ Here, he explained, was a place of mystagogy (theological opinion, or mystical interpretation). It is the action of veiling which is of importance, and as long as any mystical meaning given to this process does not contradict the Liturgy, then he was in no place to tell his brother priest he was wrong –because he was not –but such meanings were not absolute, though the objects and praxis of veiling were certainly sacred and requisite. Any meaning was accidental to the co- action of the priest and the veil in the course of the Liturgy. To the right of the table of prothesis sits the servers’ table. On this, in front of the ikon of St John the Forerunner –a gift given to the parish by the priest in Walsingham –is a wicker basket, lined with a simple cotton muslin. The basket will hold what is left of the prosphoron, cut into small chunks. This 1 This would normally be done by a deacon. In the absence of a deacon, however, this is usually done by the junior priest present. This process also includes cleaning the chalice to ensure that no crumbs of the Body, which are called ‘pearls’, remain. 2 This is particular to Liturgies in which there is no serving deacon. If there is a deacon, the third veil, the aër, is tied over the deacon’s shoulders.
66 Materials bread is then blessed over the Body and Blood after the consecration, being made into antidoron. Here again, fabric is used to ensure that particle crumbs of blessed bread are not lost. After each Liturgy, once the last pieces have been eaten, any remaining crumbs are taken out into the garden to be shaken into a place where they will not be trodden on or come into contact with faeces. On the Holy Table, atop the white vestments, as mentioned in the previous chapter, Chris has positioned the epitaphios. This embroidered ikon shows the taking down of the body of Christ from the Cross. On this is placed the antimension, then the Gospel book atop that. Covering the Gospel book is another cloth ikon, that of Mary and John the Apostle at the Crucifixion.3
Sensible coherence In the slow assembling of the temple within the space of the Anglican building, it is the placement of the antimension that transforms the space from mundane to the sacred. In a normal Orthodox temple, there would be a consecrated Holy Table. The rite of consecration, a quite elaborate service conducted by a bishop, sets a permanent anchor within the built environment. Such Holy Tables contain within them a holy relic and as such are a fixed feature in the sacred landscape. Even without vestments, such a table is always sacred. For St Æthelwald’s, however, the Anglican edifice is in no way sacred; it is, in fact, a ‘synagogue4 of the heretic’ according to canon law.5 What changed the space into sacred space was the placement of the silk ikon, which acted as a sort of deed of trust from the bishop entitling the priest and congregation to the canonical privilege to conduct services. This simple item of fabric, roughly 25 × 30 inches, is usually a painted or printed ikon on silk, signed by the local bishop, granting to the parish community the authority to conduct itself as a canonical Orthodox parish. When not in use, the antimension sits on the Holy Table underneath the Gospel book. During the course of the Liturgy, the Gospel is opened,
3 It is worth noting that even within the diocese, different parishes use different kinds of fabric for the last piece –some ikonic, some simply decorative. 4 Synagogue (συναγωγή) simply means ‘assembly’, implying ‘meetinghouse’. In many older sources (the Apostolic Canons date from at least the mid-4th century [Erickson 1997]), ‘synagogue’ is used in a broad sense, with no necessary implication toward Judaism. 5 This touches on a quite controversial aspect of intercredal Christian relations. More liberal, ecumenically minded authorities within Orthodoxy globally would recognise Anglican Christianity as being, or at least capable of being, a holy and sacred tradition. Others maintain a hard distinction between the Orthodox and Protestant (and Catholic, etc.) traditions. Of particular importance in the official framing of Orthodox relations to other credal traditions is the Balamand Agreement (1993), which acknowledges the Catholics as a ‘Sister Church’ and the official statement ‘Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World’ as part of the Holy and Great Council (held in Crete, subsequent to my research, in 2016). It is noteworthy that neither of these statements has universal assent, even from within the Orthodox Churches that are signatories to the statements.
Making sacred space 67
Figure 4.2 The Holy Table. Vested in Pascha.
read, and then stood upright off to the left side of the table. Then, the antimension, which is kept folded within a satin coverlet (the eileton), is unfolded, showing the ikon of Christ being taken down from the Cross. It is over this item of fabric that the consecration of the Holy Gifts is performed, and as such, there are understood to be strong correlations between this textile artefact and the body of Christ; it is both an image of and a component in the making of its prototype. In most parishes this is a rather understated piece of fabric, because it rests atop the consecrated Holy Table, which, with its holy relic, is a very stable, governing anchor within the cosmological groundings of the temple as heaven, the created cosmos, and the throne of God. But St Æthelwald’s stands in contrast to the temple as ideal type (as elaborated in Chapter 2). St Æthelwald’s has no stable anchor. As such, the placement of the ‘instead of table’ dictates whether the building is the temple of God, heaven on earth, or simply a nice old edifice in east Central London that they are able to use once a week. The importance of this object cannot be stressed enough. The manner in which Chris and then other members of St Æthelwald’s arrive and begin the transformation of St Æthelwald’s Church of England parish into St Æthelwald’s Antiochian Orthodox parish has been outlined above. During the process of preparation, when the furniture is being moved, when ikons are being put in place, when rugs are being rolled out, the space between the choir stalls, which is to become the Holy
Figure 4.3 The antimension, open on the Holy Table.
Altar, is open space. Anyone can move through this space, and Harvey often gives Chris a helping hand hoisting the large oak table into place. This table, used by the Anglicans as their west-facing altar, is then covered with altar vestments according to the festal occasion. The candles are arranged on this table, and while this is being done people may move in and out of the area freely. Often Anna arrives early with her husband, and on such occasions it is she who arranges the altar vestments; likewise, a catechumen, Andrew, often comes to help Chris set up and can do so with no problems. But once the antimension is placed on the table, it becomes the Holy Table, the area behind (to the east of) the little ikon screen becomes the Altar, and –in line with the explication of the ideal temple outlined in Chapter 2 –the entire building becomes the Sanctuary, the temple of God and as such, heaven on earth. This shift affects body practice, as I have already noted in Chris’s temerity turning to timidity, expressed in his movement and access to the space of the Anglican-quire-cum-Holy-Altar.
Making sacred space 69 On a later occasion, I noticed that Chris had indeed taken my accidental instruction to heart, as he made a small metania, crossed himself, and reverenced the ikons before moving them to their liturgical place. Nonetheless, he still then went back to venerate the ikons once the temple was set up in full. He did not combine his two interactions (one practical, one devotional) with the ikons; rather, he added a second point of devotional contact on top of the otherwise simply practical interaction. The other thing framed in Chris’s response is his understanding of the space of the built environment and his own role in the transformation of it from a mundane space into the sacred temple. When he comes into the building, he moves about with temerity, wearing an undershirt, untucked, sometimes ratty. But once the things are arranged, it is the temple. For this, he keeps a dress shirt in his backpack to change into when he is done with the heavy lifting. And, after the change, which takes the Anglican quire into heaven, he enters the Altar only if there is great need, and with a surprising amount of timidity. Similarly, in late winter and spring 2011, the Anglicans carried out a series of works on the church hall which the parish uses for their weekly lunch together after Liturgy. Without this space and the attached kitchen, St Æthelwald’s were required to use the nave of the church building for their meal. Not able to have the usual warm sit-down meal in the church hall, they set out cold meats, sandwiches, and other finger food in the back of the nave and milled in the awkward space filled with pews as best they could. When the announcement was made that this arrangement was to be made for the next several weeks, several people voiced obvious anxiety concerning the eating of meats in the temple –something strictly avoided in normative practice. Fr Theophan, during his announcements from the ambon before the final blessing at the end of the Liturgy, reminded the congregation, each time this arrangement was required, that once the antimension was lifted, the building was no longer the temple. He stressed that while the antimension was in place, one should cross oneself as one passed in front of the Holy Doors; if one were to sit, it should be done without crossing one’s legs; conversation should be quiet and restrained to listen to the final prayers as they were intoned by Mary; and no food should be eaten except the antidoron or koliva blessed in the service. After the antimension was removed, however, Fr Theophan indicated that whatever the congregation wished to do was fine. They should consider the building at that point no different from the hall next door. In this way, the effect of the antimension is spoken of in explicit terms, demonstrating that it is understood to change the very essence of the space. This piece of fabric shifts the affective nature of the place from a mundane realm into that of the sacred. This is key. It is the position of the fabric that renders the space an affective space of sacred action. The formal orientation of the ikonostasis and other moveable furniture is not what produces the temple as an ideal ikon of the universe. It is the orientation of the fabric within that aggregation. And just as it is the orientation within the space that transforms it into the affective
70 Materials space of the sacred, so too does its removal remove the transformative space elsewhere. After the Liturgy, the priest, or other member of clergy –because only members of clergy may touch this item –removes the sacred fabric and places it in a blue Tupperware® box, and it is carted off to be stored in the broom closet Chris took it from earlier in the morning. Often catechumens help with putting away the church furnishings. As neophytes, they are not permitted access to the Altar, and as such must wait until the clergy remove the antimension from the Holy Table. Once this occurs, the nature of place as sacred domain switches off, and it is, once again, simply a building that needs to be cleaned up before the clock marks the end of their rental access. Once the clergy have placed the antimension and Gospel in the Tupperware® box, it may be carried by anyone. I asked once about the effect of the antimension when not on the table. As he removed the items from the Altar, I asked Fr Theophan whether placing the antimension in the box beneath the Gospel, as he was doing, made the box the holy temple. He paused and laughed, ‘Yes. I like that. That’s very good. The Tupperware® box is the temple of God! I shall have to tell Fr John that.’ It is evident that Fr Theophan had never thought of the antimension’s torqueing affect within the polyethylene rectangular prism. Nevertheless, he quite liked the possibility of a portable temple, and felt it was too good a joke not to tell a dear friend and brother priest. Nowhere in the joke, however, did Fr Theophan see a problem with the logic. The joke lies in the incommensurability of the logical result of the Orthodox practice, not in a misapplication of that logic. Again, as the antimension is moved from the Holy Table to the Tupperware® box, it is evident that the figural excess of the antimension as a material object is not in the performance of it as a sacred tool within the ritual setting. The Liturgy could never be made within the box: it could not fit the priest and congregation. Nonetheless, however, the fabric’s position within that confined space is sufficient orientation to transform it into the sacred space of the temple. As the lid was placed on the box, Fr Theophan made a further joke about heaven being taken and put in storage. During the week, then, the divine throne of God rests in a blue polyethylene temple set together with another containing the utensils of the Proskomedia. In the broom closet with it are stored the candles for the ikonostasis, the censer and its stand, and the folding table which, as the table of prothesis, will hold the gifts in preparation each coming Sunday. Tucked away in closets and cupboards, and hidden behind Anglican fixtures, the material components of the Liturgy are stored from week to week. As the congregation begin to assemble each Sunday, they pull forth the boxes, candles, processional cross and fans, ikons, vestments, water, bread, and wine necessary to produce the Liturgy. The resulting bloom-space of people and things rests on many nodes being present: there must be a priest, there must be people; ikons and candle stands constitute sites of prayer; tables and chairs must be arranged; but most essential to the assemblage of this as a bloom-space is the placement
Making sacred space 71 of fabric. The analogion covers and rug create spaces for the holy things to be placed and venerated. Like the analogion covers, the altar vestments create a space for holy things to be prepared. As vestments, they dress the church as a bride for matrimony, showing her relation to Christ –embodied, as will be seen in Chapters 7 and 8, in the ikon of the priest. This textiled visual field is all constituted about a textile that is hidden within another textile under a Gospel book, beneath another textile. Except by those in the Holy Altar, the antimension may never be seen, and yet it is this silk napkin, painted with the taking down of the body of Christ from the cross, and signed by the reigning bishop, that transforms the sensible space of an Anglican ‘synagogue of the heretics’ into the place of heaven on earth, the throne of God, an Orthodox temple. From this account, it is seen how Orthodox Christians, particularly those at St Æthelwald’s, use fabric to create sacred space.
Fabric’s sociality Fabric is a many-splendoured thing. It has the capacity to conceal and reveal at the same time. A napkin draped over the chalice as it rests upon the Holy Table clearly indicates the presence of the chalice while occluding it. As
Figures 4.4 and 4.5 Fabric on the Holy Altar, showing 3D quality of textiles (left); Folds and movement of fabric as Fr Theophan sprinkles holy water (right).
72 Materials I have written elsewhere (Carroll 2017b), fabric is best understood as a five- dimensional thing. It is not flat, as many table cloths may suggest; its warp and weft (the lengthwise and crosswise threads, respectively) also belie depth that allows it to be wrapped around, taking the form of –be it a burka or skinny jeans –the body in three dimensions. As the fabric then moves, in time as the fourth dimension, it flutters. The animation of movement, such as a flag in the wind, a veil upon the face of a bride, or a child tucked under the covers, gives social capacity to fabric as a fluctuating emblem of continuity and change. Going beyond the warp and weft suggests that the length and width must be understood also in light of the thickness of the fabric as well as the enacted capacity which it (as a three-dimensional object) allows through use in gestured time (as a four-dimensional object). This fourth dimension of use-in-time plays out in social space that, for the purpose of understanding how textiles work in religious contexts, is best broken into two categories roughly along the ‘mundane’ and ‘sacred’ boundary. The ‘mundane’ or ‘socionormative’ negotiations are those around gender, politics, kinship, and group solidarity versus individuation. The ‘sacred’ or ‘socioreligious’ domain is distinguished from this very broad social category in order to focus specifically on what fabric is able to do in religious use. In contexts of heightened religious emphasis, I see fabric as capable of facilitating what I call ‘sublime negotiations’; this relates to the uses of fabric that transform, transcend, and spiritualise in particularly intense ways.6 From this flows the discussion of the fifth dimension of fabric, a pneumatic quality that cannot be described using the analytical categories of material and visual culture.
Making sensible space The previous chapter follows the transformation of the Anglican building of St Æthelwald’s into the Orthodox temple of St Æthelwald’s. In so doing, it unpacks the two hours spoken of in the Introduction, wherein the space goes, by Orthodox standards, from being a non-place –only there to be passed through (Augé 1995:104) –to being sacred space. In the course of the ethnography, two things became apparent. The first is that fabric holds a pivotal role in the making of space. The second is that making space is done very purposefully in order to facilitate the kinds of intersubjectivities which informants see as central to their lives as Orthodox Christians. As was discussed in Chapter 2, the Orthodox temple is understood to be an ikon of the universe. Drawing on Eliade’s (1954, 1987) and Köllner’s (2013) respective works on the Orthodox temple, one would get the impression that 6 It is worth noting that ‘sublime’ is used here not with the necessary obligation of pain or danger, following Edmund Burke (1757). Rather, the term here used is in keeping much more with the general meaning, ‘Belonging to or designating the highest sphere of thought, existence, or human activity; intellectually or spiritually elevated’ (Oxford English Dictionary). For an excellent discussion of the different aspects of the term ‘sublime’, see van Eck (2010).
Making sacred space 73 the temple serves as a religious anchor for the community, and in many cases a civic and social one, too. In most cases, this is true, and Köllner’s work rightly stresses the corner stone and the consecration of the temple as key points in its establishment as a sacred space –mentioning nothing of fabric. However, when the building is not consecrated and the Holy Table –which usually has relics placed within it –is likewise not an established anchor for the community, then it becomes more obvious what element of the temple is required for it to function as one. As Antohin’s (2014) recent work on Ethiopian Orthodoxy has observed, when, in that context, the tabot –or tablet of the Ark –is taken out of the parish veiled in ornate wrapping, as is done each Timkat (Epiphany, lit. ‘Baptism’), the church leaves the building and the edifice is no longer sacred. It is the tabot –not the building –that makes the church a church. Boylston (2012:171), also working in an Ethiopian Orthodox context, has similarly noted the perseverance of a monastic church despite its destruction by fire. As the fire did not destroy the tabot, it was simply moved into a tent down the hill while reconstruction work was carried out. While in Eastern Orthodoxy, the building and Holy Table, too, are consecrated and thus perpetually sacred space, the Holy Table cannot be served upon by a priest without canonical permission to do so. This canonical permission is given in the form of an antimension. Its literal meaning, ‘instead of table’, speaks for the fact that this object, not a consecrated Holy Table, is the thing that lets a church be used for Orthodox worship.7 As is seen in the assembling of the Holy Altar, the manipulation and placement of the antimension transforms the affective sense of place into a sensuous space. Along with the movement and arrangement of furniture and ikons, the Anglican building is transformed into space suitable for Orthodox worship through the emplacement of the antimension.
Substance of the immaterial The connection between fabric and the making of sacred space is not a uniquely Orthodox Christian perspective on fabric; for example, as one of the Jewish women Emmett interviewed explained, The first time I put tallit on felt significant to me. In a way that’s hard to put into words. I felt I was doing something to increase my spiritual depth. … Donning tallit puts you in a different space, in a space that makes it easier to connect to the prayers, in a way that’s very hard to understand. (Sue in Emmett 2007:82)
7 Januarius Izzo, in providing a general background to the antimension, argues that the antimension is, in fact, an innovation introduced in the 7th and 8th centuries, in response to the Iconoclastic period, when ‘square or oblong cloth was substituted for a rigid and heavy wooden plank’ (1981:4). As such, the antimension may be a direct substitution for objects which, like the tabot, are used across Oriental Orthodoxy. Krista West (2013), however, suggests (though without giving details) that the antimension has an older history, pre-dating the establishment of Christianity as an official Roman religion.
74 Materials Why and how does fabric enable this kind of spiritual transportation? Tallit is not something casually put on; rather, it is a responsibility that the women of Sue’s synagogue considered carefully before voting to accept this change to traditional Judaism, which had reserved tallit (and the rule of prayer associated with it) to adult men. Emmett is interested primarily in the phenomenon of reinventing traditional Judaism, changing it to keep it alive, and as such never pursues what it is that allows this experience of the divine. It is my argument that the answer may be found by looking beyond the four dimensions already discussed. Within the torque of fabric’s materiality there appears to be an immaterial affordance of fabric that allows textiles to act in supramundane situations, creating the space for the holy. In this argument arises the sense of relational affect. In Chapter 8, concepts of the person will be discussed, leading to an understanding of the Orthodox person as permeable and processual. What is seen here is the role of material, specifically fabric –and akin to it the built environment –within the affective becoming of people as subjects and Orthodox. As writers in affect theory quickly point out, the body itself is in a state of ‘perpetual becoming’, characterised by a constant ‘in-betweenity’ (Gregg and Seigworth 2010:3, emphasis in original) in relation to things, people, emotions, and so forth. The continual ‘in-betweenity’ of the body, as it is affected in on-going forms of contact –in what Gregg and Seigworth (ibid.) call ‘bloom-spaces’ –is a quality, however, not only of the body, but of the other materials within the material ecology as well. What is argued here, in a way similar to Ingold’s idea of things being caught up together in the flow of making, or to Barad’s (2007) ‘intra-action’, is that fabric also offers something of a bloom, facilitating new ways of coming into being. While this movement is intra-active, there is a definite teleological aspect to the action –that is, it is not solely multiple acting back and forth, but multiple acting together toward a common goal –and as such, ‘co-action’ is used here. By way of example of co-action with fabric, while I was at the Monastery of Vatopedi, a number of the monastic brothers spoke of a synergistic process by which clothing (and other architectonic forms, such as an ascetic’s cabin8) assists in the penitent’s sanctification and, as a result, is also ‘brought up’ (the words of a monk of Mt Athos9), that is: ‘redeemed’ (his gloss). Framed in the language of soteriology, the symbiotic relationship between the textile and the faithful is seen to use and restore the ‘breath of life’ found in material things. 8 The specific example here was that of Saint Paisios. While en route to another spiritual father’s hermitage, the driver stopped to let us pilgrims in the back of the jeep peer out, down upon the little hut. Pilgrims crossed themselves and made a short prayer (St Paisios, pray to God for us!), and then we went on. This is the same kind of devotional contact as is made through ikons and relics. 9 Apart from Geronda Ephraim, I was instructed to use no names for my monastic informants; rather, following the tradition of the Gerontikon (a book of sayings of monastic Fathers and Mothers) and other Orthodox spiritual texts, I was told to refer to informants within the brotherhood of the Vatopedi monastery as ‘a monk of Mt Athos’.
Making sacred space 75 In most cases, the immaterial affordances of fabric are, it seems, irrelevant; within the mundane workings of life, the materiality of fabric is the only thing taken into consideration. However, in particular cases, the substance of the immaterial becomes essential to how the fabric is enacted within society. In these cases, fabric must be understood as a five-dimensional artefact, being composed of both material and immaterial. Written another way, fabric is im/material; and as such, it can cover and mask and reveal the very thing it hides. By doing so, it affords spiritual transcendence (or spiritual immanence)10 by bringing together issues of the material ecology and sensible space in a potent way. The idea that space fosters transformation is not a novel one. As either bloom-spaces (Gregg and Seigworth 2010), or affectual geographies (Navaro-Yashin 2012; Tolia-Kelly 2006), or fused with the person in ‘the meld’ (Garrett 2013), space is an indisputable part of the experience of the self. In terms of the built environment, Verkaaik (2013) has observed that for all the effort many religious informants exert to impress upon researchers that buildings are not important to their religious pursuit, they are nonetheless potent components within religious devotion, and often demand a significant portion of time and money within belief-practice, across traditions. Orthodox Christians, on the other hand, often are very upfront concerning the importance of religious buildings, and express the role that the built environment plays within the experience of the holy. van de Port (2013), in his work on baroque churches in Brazil, speaks of the ways religious architecture can produce ecstatic experiences. He takes ecstasy, ek-stasis ‘standing outside the self’, as a type of jouissance (as apposed11 to plaisir, Barthes 1975) –an ego-disrupting pleasure ‘in conflict with canons of culture’ (Gallop 1984:111 in van de Port 2013:77) –and argues that [r]eligious buildings have a power of their own that is not illustrative of religious knowledge already in place, but that one might call ‘ecstatic’… The vacillation between plaisir and jouissance, consciousness and flesh, a body of religious knowledge and the-rest-of-what-is is characteristic of many mystical traditions and techniques. (van de Port 2013:78) However, whereas van de Port identifies the ecstatic to be the end of many mystical traditions, this is not the case with Orthodox Christianity. As the theologian 10 In the Orthodox context, as far as I can tell, the distinction between immanence and transcendence is largely meaningless. God’s omnipresence, and the fact that all things which exist derive their existence from the energies of God, as is discussed in the next chapter, means that all things are a signification of God’s immanent presence. God is, I am told, entirely beyond comprehension and always present with us. A notion of ‘transimmanence’, then, is more fitting for Orthodox spirituality. 11 That is, ‘next to’, not in opposition –Barthes does not see jouissance and plaisir to be in a relationship of opposition.
76 Materials Vladimir Lossky explains, ecstatic states ‘are particularly typical of the early stages of the mystical life’ (1976:208). Instead, the Orthodox mystic ‘has the constant experience of the divine reality in which [the mystic] lives’ (ibid.:209). Thus, leaving ecstasy behind, the Orthodox Christian is understood to seek something beyond the ‘standing outside the self’: a state of constant living- with-God, which is understood to be done in and with the body (ibid.:224). Within Orthodox practice, the archetype of this living-with is seen in the Virgin Mary –particularly in what is called her metastasis (μετάστασης). In the feast that commemorates her death (kimisis –lit. ‘sleep’) (15 August), her ascension is also confessed. Orthodox Christians understand that she, after being dead in the tomb for three days, was taken (bodily) into heaven. This is her metastasis. It is usually translated as ‘translated’, but is a different word from what is used to describe the ‘translation of the relics’ (ανακομιδή λειψάνου –anakomidi leipsanou) of some saint. Whereas anakomidi is the movement of something from one place to another, metastasis implies the transposition of something onto a higher or ultimate place. Around the Monastery of Vatopedi, many ikons attest to the legend that as she was taken up, riding on clouds, she gave to St Thomas her cincture, the Agia Zone (Αγία Ζώνη), which is still held by the monastery. This piece of fabric will be spoken of in the final chapter, as it stands outside of many of the paradigmatic qualities of fabric as it is understood in this book, and in so doing helps explain the transformations which fabric facilitates. Taking the term from the legend concerning this piece of fabric, I take meta-stasis, not ek-stasis, as the purpose of the material culture of Orthodox worship. As such, while I agree with the points noted above by van de Port and Verkaaik concerning the central role of ecclesiastical architecture, I emphasise the role of the built environment as a bloom-space, and specifically seek to understand the role of fabric within the articulation of the St Æthelwald’s parish as affective sacred space, capable of the kinds of subjective transformation leading to metastasis.
Axis of incoherence While three religious groups and three commercial groups use the facilities, there is little contact between the various parties. Apart from fulfilling fiscal duties, there is no regular correspondence between the Orthodox parish and the Anglican parish at all. But there are certain qualities evoked by the material ecology of the space which cohere with certain ideals celebrated by the Anglican community. As material anchors of their own anaphoric chains, the war memorials and evidence of the edifice as a City Church speaks of a long line of national and civic heritage; its broad central aisle, well lit, leading up to a welcoming gesture in the stained-glass window, provides a movement forward to light a votive candle or partake of the Anglican Eucharist. In each aspect, there are certain kinds of anaphoric relations between material objects which suggest what Alfred Gell (1998:215ff) in his work on Marquesan art
Making sacred space 77 called an ‘axis of coherence’. Gell’s use of the term spoke of relations between relations within the motivic qualities of a society’s artistic production; that is to say that within a society’s art there are certain stylistic qualities (such as common motifs, ratios between proportions, etc.) that align along a similar path (i.e., the axis of coherence), such that while new variations are possible, they will always cohere within the larger set. In my use of the ‘axis of coherence’ here, I shift the focus slightly to speak of the sensibility that arises out of a physical environment in terms of the driving motivation or epiphenomenal quality of the space as a social environment. As a sense-ability, the ‘axis of coherence’ is what intuitive understanding apprehends as the cohering logic of a social space. In taking this interpretation, this book makes explicit what appears to be a tacit play on words within Gell’s theoretical framework. The etymological kinship between motif and motive, cohere and coherence, sensible and sensibility links the material aspects (pattern, media, etc.) and relations of thought and intentions (cf. Jones 1856), possibly even virtue and value (Lambek 2008; Miller 2008). This claim, that architectural space may have an ‘axis of coherence’, should not be read in too essentialising a manner. Many spaces may have more than one cohering factor. In the context of St Æthelwald’s, there exist not only multiple factors, but contradictory ones. Take, for example, the contrast between the civic and liturgical aspects of the Anglican architecture and the weekly Orthodox reorganisation of it. For the current Anglican parish of St Æthelwald’s, the relationship with the holy codified in the building is not felt to be ideal. While the quire is often times employed as such, and the high altar is used on special occasions, most masses are ‘low’, said masses (as opposed to ‘sung masses’) with a west-facing altar (that is, the priest faces the people), using the large oak table near the congregation. Around the edifice other moveable furnishings also speak of the adaptation of space as needed by its present occupants. Moveable bulletin boards show adverts for the Weight Watchers meetings and Anglican good will and development missions in Africa, and ask for donations from tourists, reminding them of the cost of keeping such houses of prayer open in Central London. The guildsmen keep a large wine cask, something used as the lectern in their annual meetings, in front of a postmodern Madonna. By the main door, a wide selection of brochures advertises the building for event hire, asks for funds for various ministries of help among disabled persons, and advertises seasonal festivals and arts events. On the back wall a marble clamshell (holding Anglican holy water) and a wrought iron candle stand sit awkwardly off to the side –unused by the Orthodox parish, but marked evidence that the building is still also an Anglican house of prayer open to visitors. These are just some examples of the material ecology of the parish church. These diverse objects relate together, producing a particular sensibility to the space. It is a beautiful building, standing in stark contrast to the surrounding office buildings, and as such, attracts tourists year-round. Most tourists who enter the building go in and notice one or two paintings and stop to look
78 Materials at the war memorials; a few will also glance at the notice boards; a few dip their hands in the marble clamshell and cross themselves with a little curtsey toward the altar before heading out. But, as more time is spent in the building, and particularly as people are tasked with making the space suitable for communal rituals, certain epistemological assertions which are made in the inter- artefactual domain become increasingly recognisable, and in some cases, problematic. It is this problematic aspect that is now addressed. This description of the parish building is given at length in order to draw out a specific kind of ocular phenomenon, and its relation to the ritual processions made in the space, as a metaphor of the spiritual pursuit central to those who make use of such spaces. Richard Kieckhefer (2004), in his work on the theology of Christian architectural forms, speaks of the correlation between the length of the building and the spiritual pursuit in Western Christianity. This correlation observed by Kieckhefer is echoed in the ethnography of Strhan (2013), as discussed in Chapter 2. The over-riding spatial metaphors of longitudinal spiritual pursuit are ones of ‘further up and further in’,12 ‘mystical ascent’,13 and similar notions that posit a longitudinal progression for the pious Christian in her pursuit of God, salvation, and heaven as a transcendent other. The altar as the focal anchor of sacramental Christianity invites the pious worshipper to approach the place of God with holy fear. While the altar itself is not accessible, that which it offers is given to whoever will make the long journey up. This is the ek-stasis spoken of by van de Port (2013). Following in this tradition, the parish building of St Æthelwald’s was constructed in such a manner as to make an ocular and processional movement up and back, so the pious Anglican might receive the sacred elements, mediated for them by the priest, and return to their space among the people. The longitudinal and processional quality of the building is at harmony with the Anglican use. These same aspects also served well for the Open City festivals, which for two years running made use of the long central aisle to display African textiles. In 2011 the installation positioned mannequins processing up the aisle, much in the fashion of a catwalk. For the Orthodox parish, however, the material environment of the Anglican church is inadequate for their ocular and ritual use of the space. The ikonostasis is placed close to the unused pews to allow a visual proximity to the saints. Other ikons are arranged throughout the building, by the door, by the candle stand, and on the four main pillars of the church in order to foster a more enclosed, circular quality of veneration. As mentioned earlier, during Pascha an extra effort is made to increase the circular quality of inter-ocular veneration, placing ikons on any ledge available around the skirting and pillars. Consequently, as is 12 An expression taken from C.S. Lewis’ Last Battle. 13 This language can be seen in both Greek and Latin Christianity, following from Origen’s neo-platonic language. In the Western Christian tradition, it can be seen to follow from Bonaventure’s mystical theology, exemplified in his Journey of the Mind into God.
Making sacred space 79
Figure 4.6 Directionality of Anglican sensibility (top) compared with circularity of Orthodox procession (bottom).
common in most purpose-built temples, when looking in any direction, the eye is met with an eye in an ikon. Similarly, a circular movement is made, as was seen in the Prologue, in the processions, which take place each Liturgy, as the clergy circle around the pews. It is not uncommon for Orthodox parishes in the United Kingdom to take over Anglican spaces of worship. In most cases, however, some adjustment is made to the building, such as the installation of a ‘right-proper ikonostasis’ and the painting of or hanging of ikons around the building. Many also remove some or all pews. In these situations, the material ecology is altered and made compliant with the sensibility of Orthodox Liturgy and theology. This, however, is not an option for the St Æthelwald’s parish. As I spoke to various members about their relationship to the edifice, the large stained-glass window was a recurrent problem. As a commissioned piece to repair damage done in 1993 after an IRA bombing, the piece evokes an
80 Materials odd mix of traditional iconographic technique and modernising influences. ‘It’s just awful’, one woman tells me, ‘I can’t bear to look at it.’ Another tells me he stands in the front and a bit off to the side, specifically so that as he looks toward the priest he cuts the window out of his line of sight. What is so wrong with it? Christabel, an ikonographer in the parish, explains it to me most succinctly: Images are important, ikons are visual theology, and she as an ikonographer follows careful guidelines and must live a life of prayer, in observation of the fasts of the Church, in order to make ikons suitable for use in worship (Carroll 2015). Images are theological statements; but the image in question, she asserts, is heretical. Rather than positioning the saint in a frontal position, such that the viewing person may enter into an inter- ocular mode of veneration, the window is populated with a number of faces which engage different directional gazes, both up, into the light beyond, and down, introspectively into the self. While the blank walls without ikons are an absence in need of filling, the painted glass window is worse than nothing. In this context, it can be seen that what the image wants is sensibly distinct from what the Orthodox parish wants from an image. This ‘heretical’ image invites the viewer to gaze up, away from the ocular circularity of the ikonostasis, toward a distanced, transcendent, and ek-static object of veneration. The image incites the viewer to the contemplation of a sociality and spirituality foreign to the Orthodox temple. A parallel emerges between Joanna’s preference, as discussed in Chapter 2, to be seen by the stranger as nothing rather than possibly be mistaken for a Muslim, on the one hand, and the preference for bare walls over an image which asks the viewer to contemplate an overly emotional rendering of the crucifixion at a height and distance, on the other. Unlike the ambivalence toward the city transport, which is both the means by which the parishioners come to Liturgy and the means by which the ‘secular mind of the city’ thwarts the parishioners’ access to the Liturgy, there is nothing beneficial from dressing in a Christian way that may make someone think you are a Muslim, nor is there benefit from an image of Christ which seeks to engage the viewer in something other than the face-to-face intersubjective gaze traditional to ikons. In these cases, a null –blank walls or unmarked denizen –is preferable to an alternative spirituality. This wilful blanking is also seen in the man’s practice, mentioned above, of standing in such a way as to occlude the stained-glass window from his gaze. Both outside –the skyscrapers, which the parish ignores –and inside – images such as the window and the postmodern Madonna, which the parish likewise ignores –there are aspects of the material ecology of the Orthodox Parish of St Æthelwald’s that are simply ignored. Do people notice them? Yes, of course. As the Heron Tower was being built in 2011 and 2012, an off-hand comment about the construction could be heard. If asked about the postmodern Madonna at the back of the nave, everyone would know which image was being spoken of (‘Oh that awful thing?’), but while tourists gave these aspects attention, these elements did not gain notice or enter into the
Making sacred space 81 worshipful imagination of the St Æthelwald parishioners. The coherence of the Anglican edifice, as a City Church, set among towers and transport lines, welcoming tourists, Guildsmen, and Weight Watchers was not the same sensual space as the Orthodox temple into which parishioners, like Joanna and Chris, entered. Each week the parish successfully completed their communal worship, yet there was a recurrent attitude expressed indicating that the sensibility (and sensible aspects) of the building did not match the sensibility of the congregation. And it was not only a matter of insufficiency in terms of not enough open space, but also of unacceptability, such that parishioners and clergy alike spoke of consciously ignoring parts of the material ecology in which they found themselves. In terms of relations between relations, then, it is argued here that an axis of incoherence arises between how the space is constituted in the material ecology of the Anglican edifice and how that material ecology is reconstituted, sublimated, and altered in the religious praxis of the Orthodox congregation. This is not to say that either the Orthodox or the Anglican praxis is ‘incoherent’, but rather, that material objectification has ceased to adhere, such that the physical space of St Æthelwald’s Anglican Church and the sensible space of St Æthelwald’s Orthodox Church no longer map one to one. What can now be seen is that St Æthelwald’s as a place is very different from St Æthelwald’s as a space. It is, in fact, more than one bloom-space, offering apposite affective qualities leading to distinct modes of subjective becoming. The Orthodox parishioners and the trickle of tourists, though in the place simultaneously, interact and come to engage in the material ecology with very different results. It is the same physical environment, but the torqueing of the materiality within the sensible ecology of St Æthelwald’s strings different successions of affective bodily engagement. This should be no surprise. As Ahmed (2010:32) has observed, ‘to be affected “in a good way” involves an orientation toward something as being good’ –to be affected at all, it might be added, requires an orientation of some kind. As Bourdieu (1984) convincingly shows, bodily orientation and response to an artefact of phenomenon are largely contingent on before-the-fact orientation and judgement. What is remarkable in this ethnography, however, is that bodily orientation and positive affect within the parish church are not articulated by the presence of ikons, candles, incense, or any of the other sacred artefacts and substances. But, as Chris’s ‘in there’ demonstrates, affective response to space is switched in reference to the position (orientation) of a piece of fabric within the material ecology. As it is a hidden artefact, tourists and the casual observer would not even know that there is such a textile to have an orientation toward. In the bodily comportment of parishioners, however, who after proskynesis face forward toward the Altar, witness is given to the cohering axis of the sensible space to be that of a temple. Not only is the affective space of the Orthodox temple different from its Anglican environment, but it can be seen to occlude some present aspects and torque toward other, non-present aspects. Items like the iron votive candle
82 Materials stand and the marble clam shell (which some informants had simply not noticed) are not present within the temple. When we examine informants’ engagement with the space, it becomes evident that these are ‘consensual bloom spaces’.14 Even glaringly obvious items like the stained-glass window are actively ignored, such that they do not feature within the visual field of parishioners’ worshipful stance. While these items within the material ecology of St Æthelwald’s parish church are ignored or go unnoticed, other materialities are engaged with that do not appear in the church building. Some items (ikons, furniture, etc.) are brought in for ritual use. However, in these materials, with their un-purified, figural excess (Pinney 2005), it can be seen that other spaces are opened up to the Orthodox Christian. In making the temple, those at St Æthelwald’s understand themselves to be making an ikon of the universe. Each ikon is not only a representation of the saint but also a means of communing with that saint. As seen in Chapter 2, entering the temple and greeting the saints is a practice of entering into an embodied intersubjective relationship with fellow Orthodox Christians: both living and dead. Part I ended by making the argument that the diverse places through which Orthodox Christians travel –neighbouring parishes, sites of pilgrimage, the home –are best seen as cataract places, each having an excess materiality which torques toward the others. Each of these spaces is sacred, made so through by various practices of prayer and the manipulation of sacred objects. Here, in this chapter, it is shown that the transformation by which a place becomes sacred space is administered through the placement of fabric. As such, the supramundane negotiation of fabric renders the temple as an ikon of the universe, as a space for the holy, as an affective space for communing with the saints.
14 I am grateful to David Jeevendrampillai, who offered this phrase to help explain the dynamic role of affective spaces.
5 Materials of transformation
Orthodox presence in Britain is, in part, a new phenomenon. The immigration of Eastern European and Mediterranean peoples of traditionally Orthodox Christian confession is largely a 19th-and 20th-century development. As has been pointed out elsewhere (Carroll 2015), the Orthodox presence in Britain did not engage in active missionisation of existing Christian populations. Rather, ecumenical engagement, led most notably by Metropolitan Germanos (Strenopoulos) (1872–1951), sought to relate to the Church of England as a potential sister Church (Istavridis 1959). While many individuals did seek out Orthodoxy, the process was often difficult and confusing (Ware 1993 ). As already mentioned, in 1995 a group of former Charismatic Anglicans was received into the Orthodox Church, and it is out of this group that the present parish of St Æthelwald’s has arisen. Apart from biographical accounts of this movement (M. Harper 1999; J. Harper 2013) and the autobiographical elements in the works of Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware 1993 ), little has been written about the experience of Orthodoxy in Britain. Such a limited scope, however, is not the case concerning North American Orthodoxy. Orthodox Christianity in North America has a much stronger presence, and as such, the issue of Orthodox conversion has attracted much more literary attention. This is true both within the ranks of the religious faithful themselves (most notably Gillquist 1989, 1995; Mathewes- Green 2006; Schmemann 1979) and within the social sciences (Kan 1985, 1999; Slagle 2008, 2011). An interesting aspect of American Orthodoxy is the number of scholarly self-appraisals, such as the work by the priest and professor of Religious Studies Nicholas Ferencz (2006), which draws on both indigenous religious scholarship and sociological and demographic insights to discuss the state of contemporary American Orthodoxy, as he sees it. There is a growing interest in the social sciences concerning Eastern Christianities in America (Riccardi 2014; Slagle 2009; Sokoll 2013), with a particular interest in the aesthetic qualities of Orthodox worship (e.g. ikons and music) as material modes of intersubjective relationships with the holy –an avenue of enquiry which is also characteristic of the work of Vlad Naumescu (2010a, b), working in Eastern Europe, as well as this present book.
84 Materials Of particular interest, for our purpose here, is Sergei Kan’s (1985, 1999) work on Tlingit Orthodox in Alaska. In Kan’s (1985) work, the conversion to Orthodoxy, already by the 1880s occurring in small numbers, due in part to the Aleut mission, grew exponentially in response to the concerted efforts on the part of the US government’s and the Presbyterian missionaries’ economic and political sanctions in order to stamp out ‘old customs’. The attitude of the Orthodox Church toward existing cultural practice was much more accepting (Kan 1999), and as such, a certain cultural relevancy can be seen in the Tlingit perception of Russian (and largely Russian-Aleut) Orthodoxy. The contrast between Kan’s and Slagle’s respective accounts is striking. Slagle presents a commercial enterprise, wherein converts shop for the best spirituality. Kan presents a situation of cultural relevancy, wherein Orthodoxy provides a means by which Tlingit people are able to be Christian and remain Tlingit. It is this second interpretation that resonates more strongly with the conversion account of Niyousha-Christina, though there are strong resonances with Slagle’s ethnography, too. The conversion process of Niyousha-cum- Niyousha-Christina is chosen for extended examination for a few reasons. On the level of practicality, while twelve individuals were brought into the Orthodox Church at St Æthelwald’s during the period of fieldwork (eight adults and four infants), Niyousha’s was the only adult Baptism that, due to its timing midway through the course of research, allowed close ethnographic study in both the lead-up to and the carrying on of her religious devotion. As such, it is a unique case in the amount of detail that I was able to gather concerning it. While many individuals at St Æthelwald’s commemorate the anniversary of their reception into the Orthodox Church yearly, an occasion that, along with birthdays and names-days, warrants the parish singing ‘God grant you many years’, very little attention is given to the act of conversion. During interviews, while I was gathering biographies of parishioners, the issue of conversion usually arose. However, it was only ever former Protestants who felt compelled to go into detail and offer anything that resembled a ‘conversion narrative’ or ‘my story’ as it appears in wider literature of Christian conversion (Robbins 2004; Slagle 2009; Stromberg 1993). In these cases, it was usually accompanied by nervous laughter, and in one case the question, ‘Is this what you want?’ –to which I answered, ‘If you don’t mind telling me, I’d love to hear it.’ Otherwise, most informants would give me nothing more than the date they were ‘received’, what religious affiliation (if any) they had left, and –if I pressed –what influences had drawn them to Orthodoxy. By ‘received’ they meant the date of their Baptism, or, if already baptised, their Chrismation – when the sacramental oil of anointing marked them as Orthodox Christian. This has no relation to when they first became interested or began to ‘believe’ (a word they rarely, if ever, used). The influences that had drawn them to Orthodoxy usually included either tourism to places of Orthodox devotion in the eastern Mediterranean (such as Tinos or Cyprus) or encounters with the aesthetic (music, ikons) or doctrinal aspects (usually the Patristic fathers) of Orthodox culture. Against this general context of conversion to Orthodoxy in
Materials of transformation 85 the West, and the characteristics of conversion as witnessed at St Æthelwald’s, the chapter now turns to examine one account in detail.
Becoming Orthodox Niyousha, like many of Slagle’s (2008) informants, found out about St Æthelwald’s from an internet search. She was a Shia Muslim, of Iranian heritage. Her parents were secular, and as such, she was not raised in a religious household; however, she grew up in London, where she came into contact with other Muslim girls. Through their influence she began to pray and attend Mosque regularly. Her prayer and fasting, however, she describes as having been ‘just for show’. Through changing schools and coming into contact with some quite devout fellow Shia Muslim classmates, she was astonished by the degree of piety and devotion these girls demonstrated. Confronted with this, Niyousha came to realise that she did not really believe in God. After a period of time of personal turmoil, when she wrestled with the question, asking friends and family members about their belief in God and reading books about the existence or non-existence of God, she finally turned to that reliable source of knowledge: Google. Searching Google for ‘Why do people believe in God’, she found a Yahoo Answers conversation with the answer she had been looking for. Niyousha expresses her moment of belief as follows: I was becoming really desperate. Um, this is really embarrassing, I Googled it [laughter]. I Googled, ‘Why do people believe in God’, or something like that; and you know [laughter] when you ask [laughter] … This is so embarrassing. You know when you Google a question, and it comes up with the Yahoo Answers, I swear you could probably still find it if you Google it, I’m not joking. Someone –I always pray for this person –, someone wrote, uh, it was something like, um … Pausing to collect her thought, she says: It takes as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a theist, to believe that, like, a random bunch of dust came together, exploded and made the world. And I was like: Shit, that is true. Not so much finding an answer to support faith as losing faith in the certainty of disbelief, Niyousha was now free to believe once again. But she was still troubled by various aspects of Islam, particularly the ascetic demands seen in the body posture during prayer and rules about fasting and dress. After a bit of looking around, Google again proved prophet to her faith journey, as she stumbled across the website for St Æthelwald’s. Much like many of the converts in Slagle’s (2008) work on Orthodox converts in Pennsylvania, Niyousha
86 Materials emailed Fr Theophan a few times before appearing one Sunday morning. By this time, she had already decided she was going to become Christian, needed to be baptised, and was going to do so in the Orthodox Church. Niyousha arrived at the parish in Spring 2011 and was received officially as a catechumen the week after another young university student, Seraphim, was received into the Orthodox Church. During the three years of my research, from September 2009 to September 2012, St Æthelwald’s parish had a constant trickle of newcomers wishing to join the Orthodox Church. The previous parish priest, Fr Gabriel, had practiced quite a brief catechumenate (period of induction as a neophyte), in some cases as short as four weeks. He taught very basic tenets of Orthodoxy and a bit of the history of the Antiochian Orthodox Church broadly, but was (I am told) of the mind-set to bring in anyone who showed up as fast as possible.1 I cannot attest to the historicity of that claim, as I only met Fr Gabriel once. What was observable, however, was the rapidity with which Fr Theophan began to change the process of the catechumenate once he took over as parish priest.
The catechumenate At first, Fr Theophan simply delayed beginning the formal training of a catechumen in order to give the individuals time to become more acquainted with the Liturgy. There were two such catechumens, Gregg and Charles, who had both been attending for some months even before Fr Gabriel’s repose on Theophany 2010. Fr Theophan was prepared to catechise them, together, during Great Lent, to be received on Pascha (4 April), but after each was unable to attend for a few weeks running, he postponed their reception into the Church until Pentecost (23 May). Through this process, Fr Theophan expressed his discontent with how little instruction was included in the catechism, and began asking around to find out how long the process was in other places. Having learned that in most places it was a considerably longer process (even up to a year in length), he was resolved to rewrite the parish catechism he had inherited from Fr Gabriel. This resolution was cemented when both Gregg and Charles had disappeared by the end of the summer. Charles was later seen to be attending the Russian Cathedral, but Gregg had ‘left the Church’, returning to the Tridentine Mass of the Roman Catholics. As such, when Seraphim –then Harry –arrived in September 2010, Fr Theophan was in no rush. Harry was an Anglican studying theology at the 1 I am hard put to interpret this sentiment. I only met Fr Gabriel once, because even though my preliminary research began three months before his death, his cancer was so advanced that he was rarely up and about. Fr Theophan was, as assistant priest, conducting the services and catechising converts under the pastoral oversight of Fr Gabriel. There is within broader Orthodox discourse around converts a concern that they are ‘brought in too quickly’. From general accounts of Fr Gabriel, it is likely that his zeal for evangelism (something quite fitting to his Charismatic Anglican days, but a little at odds with wider Orthodox temperament) did in fact cause him to act with a speed that did not allow the converts to take on what Orthodox call ‘the mind of the Church’.
Materials of transformation 87 Jesuit college in London. He was very interested in Orthodoxy, but not ready at the time to convert. After some months, however, Harry expressed interest, and after Christmas Fr Theophan received him into the catechumenate. As a catechumen, Harry was placed under certain rules, including a ban on attending other houses of worship. This ban, coming from an ancient rule called Apostolic Canon LXV, restricts Orthodox persons from entering into ‘the synagogue of the Jew or heretic’ to pray. Such a restriction is designed to keep the individual from falling into false prayer (idolatry), as she may be compelled to pray with those outside the Church and be led astray through such. This is a rule Fr Theophan gives to all his spiritual children, but he is particularly watchful of his catechumens. He does, however, make arrangements so that the rules are not needlessly difficult: hence delaying Harry’s catechumenate till after Christmas. Fr Theophan reasoned that Harry might wish to go to some evensong, or midnight Mass, or some other family function at a church over Christmastide. Allowing for that, he postponed the strict guidelines till after the season had passed. As it happened, Harry went to the pub instead. Harry’s catechumenate ran from January to June, and he was received, taking the name Seraphim, on Pentecost (12 June) 2011. Fr Theophan took his time, dedicating an hour each Sunday to the giving of his ‘lectures’. He invited anyone to attend, but gave priority to Harry when questions arose. It was into this process that Niyousha arrived.
The catechumen Niyousha Niyousha and Harry were two very different kinds of converts. Harry had grown up in a non-religious family, had become Christian and Anglican on his own initiative and had come slowly toward the Orthodox Church for primarily theological reasons, but was also attracted by the beauty of the Liturgy. Niyousha grew up in a nominally religious home, and was a large influence in her parents’ attending Mosque. After a crisis of faith in God and a crisis of faith in Islam, she chose to keep God but leave Islam. As a Persian, Niyousha had had a friend invite her to a Farsi Evangelical Church, but she felt a need for historical continuity and cultural relevance, and, like the Tlingit Christians (Kan 1985, 1999) felt that the Orthodox Church was more true to her cultural identity. Niyousha declared her intention to become a catechumen right from the start. Fr Theophan postponed this until she was able to attend regularly. Her studies in Law presented a challenge, and while she often returned to London for the weekends, it was not until she came home for the summer that Fr Theophan agreed to pray the prayers over her, officially making her a catechumen of the Orthodox Church. Fr Theophan takes these prayers from the beginning of the service of Baptism, wherein the person is set apart and the blessing and protection of God and the angels are set over her. Niyousha was received as a catechumen the Sunday after Seraphim was received as a communicant (one who can partake of communion), and with that Fr Theophan began the long series of catechetical lectures again. These took place at 2 p.m., after lunch, off in one
88 Materials corner of the church hall. Father, Niyousha, and whoever else wished to join circled their chairs for the time of teaching. Elsewhere in the hall, parishioners continued eating and chatting or began to clean up after the meal. The new curriculum Fr Theophan taught focused much more on the practice of Orthodoxy rather than simply the historical claim of Orthodoxy and the basic doctrinal tenets that set it apart from the forms of Western Christianity from which most of the converts came. He stressed, both in open conversation in the parish and in interview settings, that Orthodox converts needed to know how to act like Orthodox. They needed to know how to conduct themselves when they walked into a parish. They needed to know how to greet a bishop or priest, how to ask their blessing. Above all, Orthodox Christians should know how to pray. This includes knowing how and when to cross themselves in the Liturgy, how to kiss an ikon, and how to use a prayer book. For Fr Theophan, being an Orthodox Christian is largely a material phenomenon.
Lessons in becoming a new person In the very first lesson, Fr Theophan teaches how to greet a priest or bishop. He teaches the honorifics, such as vladyka and sayidna,2 which show honour and affection for the bishop. And while he teaches the neophytes how to ask for and accept a blessing from the clergy, he is also teaching them about presvia, or ‘the priority’, and deference within the Church community. He goes on to explain that through the course of the catechesis he will be helping them to acquire the mind of the Church. He uses the analogy of immigrants, saying that those who do not want to be confined to the ghetto must learn to speak the native language with an accent that can be understood by the locals. Fr Theophan uses this analogy to do two things. On the surface, he is instructing the newcomers in how they should think about the process of becoming Orthodox Christians. Even those who may already be Christians need to learn a new language. There is a new way of life, and Fr Theophan wishes to make it clear that the Orthodox Church should be considered a different thing from whatever may have been known before. He explicitly says that the Orthodox Church is not a denomination, and the convert is not simply switching denominations. He emphatically states: ‘You are coming home to the flock of God’s inheritance, the original Christian Church’ (emphasis in original).3 The other move achieved by placing the Orthodox convert as a foreigner is a political one, against a minority sentiment Fr Theophan seeks eagerly to stamp out. Around Orthodox London, the parish of St Æthelwald’s had come to be known as the ‘Anglican Orthodox’ or ‘Antiochian Anglican’ parish. The juxtaposition of obviously 2 Being from the Russian and Arabic, respectively. Both are used within the English-speaking convert communities, usually keeping in order with the bishop’s native tradition. 3 Quotations from the catechism are taken from Fr Theophan’s lecture notes, which he kindly provided for me.
Materials of transformation 89 contradictory terms served to criticise the parish as not being truly Orthodox, having clung to too much of the Anglican Christianity from which many of the founding members had come. It was against this ‘nativist’ sentiment of English Christianity that Father articulated converts to Orthodoxy as foreign immigrants. In this move, he made the Greeks, the Russians, and the Romanians the native population and the English the migrant population, looking for a new (and their true) home. For Niyousha, this was not so much of an issue. In her case, however, Fr Theophan pointed out that she was returning to her ancestors. He traces this return in two ways: first, based on the understanding that Orthodox Christianity was one of the precursors of Islam, and second, making reference to the Orthodox Christian history of Persia. In this way, the parish interpreted Niyousha’s conversion as a homecoming,4 not only in the sense that the Orthodox Church is understood to be the spiritual home of all human persons, but also in the more tactile sense of cultural and religious heritage. Here again can be seen the importance of the material within the spiritual biography of Orthodox Christians. Fr Theophan explicitly articulates the Orthodox view of materials in the process of the catechism. In lecture seven, he opens by saying: We are sacramental. The whole creation is sacramental: material things show us something about God. If you can see God behind matter, you are on the road to becoming Orthodox. If you cannot, even if you believe in Jesus Christ, you are on the road to becoming an atheist. Fundamental to Orthodox Christianity is the understanding that material is sacramental.5 The ability to see ‘God behind matter’6 is a clear sightedness experienced by those who believe and are becoming Orthodox. An Orthodox 4 Homecoming is a recurrent trope within reception narratives into Orthodox Christianity, most notably Peter Gillquist’s (1995) Coming Home. 5 A point of interest is that this sacramental view of the world, wherein everything can be a miraculous witness to God, may be seen within the four- fold ontological classification offered by Philippe Descola (2013); specifically, the sort of ‘analogism’ as reinterpreted by Marshall Sahlins, which he sees as a ‘hierarchical animism’ characterised by ‘the sense that the differentiated plenitude of what there is is encompassed in the being of cosmocratic god-persons and manifest as so many instantiations of the anthropomorphic deity’ (Sahlins 2014:282). While most sources classify Christianity, uncritically, as a monotheistic religion, some of my informants pointed to Christianity as having a panentheist nature, wherein God interpenetrates and animates all things. Within this omnipresence, God has, I am told, given charge of various domains to angelic and astral, clerical, and civic powers. It is furthermore worth noting, in the comparison to ‘hierarchical animism’, that only very few informants with whom I spoke doubted the existence of pagan ‘species-beings’ (ibid.) –the Glastonbury goddess (Whitehead 2008, 2011), for example, was discussed at times; what differentiated the Orthodox Christians from the pagans was which non-human person(s) they entered into relationship with, and what kind of relationship that was considered to be. 6 In light of common assertions about Christianity, and Orthodoxy specifically, as a dematerialising religion, it is worth noting that this emphasis on God behind matter, and
90 Materials life, in this regard, is a sacramental one, wherein the simple details of the day- to-day become miraculous witnesses to God. Fr Theophan moves from discussing how everything is sacramental to discussing the specific mysteries of the Church. He is willing to use a word of Latin etymology for the general idea, but makes a point of using the Greek for the seven Holy Mysteries of the Church. ‘Sacrament’, he says, comes from the Latin for a soldier’s oath;7 ‘Mystery’, from the Greek for something one can know even with closed eyes.8 ‘A mystery’, he says, ‘is something that you know by participating in it. Love is a mystery.’ What follows from this is that much of what is important in Orthodox Christianity cannot be spoken of adequately or explained. As he goes on to say, ‘Academics do not run the Church. If they did, surely we would all be heretics. No one can understand holy mysteries by using reason or scientific method. No one can understand unless s/he has actually loved.’ This is very similar to what Alexandra Antohin (2014) has observed concerning the nature of certainty in Ethiopian Orthodoxy. Antohin notes that while many academics go to Ethiopia in search of knowledge concerning, for example, the Ark of the Covenant, which is reputedly held in Axum, northern Ethiopia, they are seeking to see in order to believe (epistemological ascent follows empirical observation); however, Antohin argues that for her informants, it is, rather, a matter that sight follows belief (epiphenomenal observation follows epistemological ascent). Likewise, within Orthodox Christianity as seen during the course of fieldwork, material registers (the weather and transport as well as ikons and the Eucharist) are understood to be movements of divine providence and, in Fr Theophan’s words, means to ‘see God’. Following this view of the world, Fr Theophan speaks of Orthodoxy as an embodied, experiential process. It is a process of becoming Orthodox, and must be known through lived, material experience, as it cannot be comprehended through scientific means or reasoned assent (a point of view he expressed regularly that sounded, at times, like a critique levelled at any anthropological enquiry into Orthodoxy, this one included). Orthodoxy is a relational experience, just like the example he gave of love: it takes time together and fidelity to develop. From the first lesson, the priest makes the point that anyone could sit down and read through the collection of his lectures and come away with the sacramental quality of matter, is not unique to this fieldsite. During the course of my research I came across numerous theological sources emphasising the importance of material. One example, arising at roughly the same time, was a homily given by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate, in January 2011, in which he says: ‘A non- believer is incapable of seeing the spiritual reality behind the phenomena of the visible world, which is present and co-exists with the material world’ (Alfeyev 2011). 7 It may be better to gloss this as generally any covenant-making ceremony. 8 With eyes closed, or possibly lips, as in what we know but of which we cannot speak. This may fit better a) with the next point in Fr Theophan’s teaching concerning the impossibility of gaining a discursive understanding of Orthodoxy and b) with the oath taken before communion saying, ‘I will not speak of thy Mysteries to thine enemy.’
Materials of transformation 91 knowledge about the Orthodox Church (which he, in fact, allowed me to do), but still know nothing. Rather, it is through the relationship to the Church that he is able to teach and, as it were, introduce the neophyte to the Church. Part of relationship is also the pastoral care to know when to follow rules strictly (akriveia –rigidity) and when to give lenience (oikonomia – economy, or measured-ness)9 for the wellbeing of the person, as seen before in postponing Harry’s catechesis till after Christmas. In Niyousha’s case, her studies, her work schedule, the tension with her Muslim parents, and her general inability to make it to the Liturgy and Catechesis continually postponed her reception into the Church. As the year progressed, however, the priest chose to set a final date for Niyousha’s Baptism, as he felt it was time to delay no longer. Niyousha was, by no one’s estimation, particularly knowledgeable about Orthodox theology; she was not, by anyone’s estimation, particularly good about attending Liturgy regularly or arriving anywhere near on time when she was able to do so. In fact, she joked from time to time about being the ‘bad catechumen’, but Fr Theophan had noticed in Niyousha a few excellent qualities denoting, in his mind, progress. She had gained a sense for how to enter the temple, she greeted the priest instinctively with proper deference, and –most tellingly in his mind –she practiced the veneration of ikons. All of this indicated that Niyousha had begun to undergo a change of who she was. Her old self was beginning to die, and so she was considered ready to experience the ritual death of Baptism and be welcomed into the new life as a communicant member of the Orthodox Church. The next section looks more closely at the baptismal ritual and its material means of enactment. It is important to keep in mind the long process of which it is a culmination and the even longer process of which it is only the beginning. Niyousha, as an individual apart from the Church, dies as she is submerged in water, and Niyousha-Christina is born by that same water, a part of the family of the Church. Her social death and the name change that comes with it are understood to change her position in relation to those in the Church and to God. It is a transformation of person which brings about new possibilities –both in the simple sense that she now may go forward and join in the ritual commensality of the Eucharist, and also in the sense that she is now understood to be part of the priesthood of all believers, offering the sacrifice of right worship. It is this Baptism, which itself follows a long training in how to pray, that is understood to be an induction into and an enabler unto right prayer. For, as Fr Theophan teaches his catechumens, ‘to live is to pray, and to pray is to live’. 9 As Giorgio Agamben (2011) has pointed out in his work on the concepts of economy and government, oikonomia derives from the in-situ management of the house (or ship, in his example). The ‘rules’ are thus more like ‘guidelines’, needing to be applied as is deemed necessary in each arising circumstance. As such, the concept of oikonomia is much more commonly seen in Orthodox parish life; I only heard akriveia used in reference to monastic spiritual obedience.
Baptism Niyousha’s Baptism was set for 12 February 2012. Across from the church’s main door, in a small park, is a fountain. On the rare occasion that St Æthelwald’s parish has cause to baptise adult converts, for most of the converts are baptised Christians,10 it has been done in this fountain. It was, at the time, an unused fountain, cluttered with fallen leaves and refuse, so a number of people, servers, the godmother-to-be, and friends arrived early to clean out the fountain. Large tubs for water were gathered in order to douse Niyousha –the closest thing to full submersion that could be arranged in east London, short of taking her to the Thames. There were emails and phone calls, texts and much conversation for some weeks in advance, working out all the details. Helena, who was to sponsor Niyousha-Christina, got a candle and a cross necklace. She also purchased a large white towel to dry off the newly baptised, and a bathmat to go in the fountain, as there were some health and safety concerns around the cleanliness and slipperiness of the tile floor. The subdeacon and the head of the parish council got a large Tupperware® rubbish bin for water. Niyousha purchased a white dress –and checked with Fr Theophan on Facebook to make sure it would be an appropriate ‘garment of light’ (baptismal robe). There was much anticipation, even anxiety, over the number of details that could go wrong, but mostly there was joy –and concern that she might not show up. On the morning of the 12th, people began arriving early. Chris, the churchwarden, arrived promptly at 9 a.m. to get a head start. The servers, Seraphim and Anthony, arrived just shortly thereafter. The priest, the subdeacon, his wife, and the various members of the choir all trickled in well before 9:45 a.m., when they usually arrived. Everything looked like it was finally coming into place, but a sense of doom settled in each person’s heart as they rounded the corner of the church and turned into the little garden plaza. As I watched people arrive, some stopped dead in their tracks and stared; some paused, then hastened their pace. Each was struck by the sight of large-scale works being done on the garden. The fountain, or what existed of it, lay under a bed of snow, cordoned off behind temporary chainlinked fence. What followed was an interesting example of the community in-crisis decision-making process. In a sort of middle-managed bricolage11 (cf Levi- Strauss 1966), each parishioner present helped find, from the range of possibilities, what was most in keeping with what they deemed appropriate. Each proposal was then referred to the priest as the sole person to authorise any final decisions. The priest, for his part, was mostly concerned that it should 10 In disagreement with some, more theologically conservative, parts of the Orthodox Church, the Patriarchate of Antioch recognises heterodox Baptism if done in the name of the Trinity. The monasteries of Mt Athos, for example, rebaptise anyone who comes into the Orthodox Church, no matter to what creed they had formerly adhered. 11 This ‘middle-managed bricolage’ is also an excellent example of what Agamben (2011) describes as the original sense of oikonomia; see note 9 above.
Materials of transformation 93 happen and that the baptised should not injure herself in the process, though he joked that should she actually die, there was no better time to do so; all her sins would be washed clean by Baptism, and she would die in a perfect state, going straight to heaven. Sometime before, in the back of the nave, a large wine cask had appeared. Seraphim and Anthony found a dolly and moved the barrel out onto the front steps of the church. The opportunity to baptise in a wine barrel was deemed too good to pass up, and in a similar vein of good humour they began to arrange things. After discovering that the barrel did not hold water, and thus a full submersion was not possible, they sought an appropriate means for Niyousha to step into the barrel and kneel, and likewise some way for (the by then drenched) Niyousha-Christina to step out in a dignified enough manner not to cause public dismay. The barrel proved much too deep for someone to climb in and out of easily. After a series of attempts, with Seraphim and Anthony climbing in and out of the barrel using various stools, kneelers, and acrobatics, a makeshift baptismal font was settled upon. Fr Theophan was consulted, and once Niyousha finally arrived, and got over the shock of having to be baptised in a wine cask, she tested the contraption, declaring that as long as there were ladies to help her, she would be fine. Alongside what might be seen as the pragmatic preparation for Baptism was also a process of aesthetic preparation. As is common in Orthodox parishes, St Æthelwald’s uses a number of items of fabric to decorate for feasts. The subdeacon’s wife, Anna –who cares for the altar cloths and analogion covers – set about making the baptismal cask more suitable. With limited resources, she used a white analogion cover, wrapping it around the rim of the font in order to set it apart for its function. No one was particularly pleased with this outcome. Anna expressed her concern to the priest that it was the best she could do in the circumstances and still did not look suitable for the occasion. She was also concerned that the water might damage the fabric.12 Fr Theophan did not veto the alternative use of the analogion cover, but thanked Anna for her efforts, saying that they were greatly appreciated, but no dressing of the font was necessary. Indicating that it was more important to have the festal white for the analogion from which the Gospel would be read, he suggested just letting the cask remain bare –it was, he reminded them, ‘the desert’,13 and they had to make do with what they had. 12 This confused me, as the textile (a silk satin with a polyester lining and acrylic fringe) should be able to withstand a cold water wash. I was unable to ascertain why there was this specific concern. In general, I could get little to no information on what fabrics were actually being used, and generally there was no concern within the parish (or within wider circles) as to the specific nature of the fabrics used. The concern was almost universally for the visual register – preference given to things that had a shimmer. The analysis of this item as a silk satin with polyester lining and acrylic fringe is based on my own appraisal of the fabric, based on years of professional experience as a tailor. 13 Fr Theophan always used this motif in contrast to ‘the city’, wherein the Liturgy can be done with proper pomp and ceremony. A monk of Mt Athos identified London as ‘a wasteland’,
Interpretations The difficulties with the pragmatic and aesthetic preparations that morning were attributed to the devil not wanting to see the Baptism come to fruition. The motif of death triumphing over death,14 and the concomitant victory over Satan that comes with it, was a recurrent theme in conversation. But this was certainly not the focus; rather, the pervasive theme was the light- hearted jokes about Niyousha dying. This served to do two things. First, it set the difficulties of preparation in perspective against the scaled grandeur of Niyousha’s preparation, such that the visible came to be a synecdochal part of the greater, invisible, whole (a type of anaphoric chain, linking triumph over the devil and death, Baptism, resurrection, life, God). Second, it brought the community together in a common counter-insurgency against the will of the devil, the corruption of the ‘old man’,15 and the death apparent in the world as the parish family prepared to give birth to a new sister. In this way, one can see the social purchase of the chain’s torque. The successive images, and a tangible event into which each is able to enter, allow the parishioners to engage with each other in social patterns of intimacy that might otherwise be awkward, given that most do not have strong bonds apart from their co- religious commitments. Because of the date of Pascha in 2012, this Sunday also marked the second Sunday in the Lenten Triodion. Ten Sundays before Pascha, the cycle of preparation begins for this, the greatest of feasts. This cycle is called the Triodion. The Sunday of Niyousha-Christina’s Baptism fell just before Lent, but well into the preparation cycle, when the looming fast and corresponding struggle with passions were very much in the minds of those parishioners preparing that morning. That particular Sunday, the Second Sunday of the Triodion, is the commemoration of the Prodigal Son (or Daughter, as the priest’s monthly email pointed out). Set within this larger ecclesiastical narrative, the correlation between a filial return home and a convert’s reception home was obvious and a cause for celebration. In both cases, the work of the house to prepare a feast was the natural outcome of a child being restored. On 31 January, the priest sent out the monthly parish newsletter, a platform he uses to instruct the parishioners in what is coming in the month ahead. On this occasion, he wrote:
contrasting it with ‘the desert’, which in his schema was a place of oasis and spiritual excellence. For a discussion concerning the place of ‘the desert’ within Christian spirituality, see Hannay (2009). 14 The Paschal Troparion, sung each Paschaltide to commemorate the Feast of the Resurrection of Christ, says, ‘Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tomb bestowing life.’ As a highly repetitive and emotionally charged theme, the image of triumphing over death by death is a highly salient image. 15 An image of the former self, which is understood to be put to death in Baptism, taken from Ephesians 4:22.
Materials of transformation 95 [Niyousha] will drown and rise again as Christina – the true meaning of holy baptism. Having sojourned with us since our server Seraphim was a catechumen (!), [Niyousha] is known and loved by so many of us that it is strange to recall that she is not yet baptised. This first baptism among us of a person with roots in the Middle East is richly symbolic, a turning point in the life of Antioch in London. (emphasis in original) Stressing the length of time for which Niyousha has been a part of the community, the priest brings to the foreground Niyousha’s Middle Eastern heritage and interprets her unity into the parish as a sort of homecoming for the parish, which is itself under Middle Eastern episcopal governance. A rich assortment of entangled imagery was at play in the preparations and instructions leading up to the Baptism. An overriding theme, however, was that of a new birth into a new family. Baptism is understood to wash the person clean of all sin and its effects, so a new, fresh person is produced. With this comes a familial link to the Church in the form of one’s sponsor. For adults, this is almost always an older Christian (counted in age in the Church, not in legal age) of the same sex, though in St Æthelwald’s one case did exist of a man with a female sponsor. For infants, often both a male and a female sponsor are chosen, usually a married couple. Coupled with the familial and natal language, the sponsor is usually called a godmother or godfather. Fr Theophan encourages this language, as it reinforces the understanding of the parish community as a very dear and supportive one. The relationship between the Orthodox Christian and her godfamily, which is at its fullest composed of the entire Orthodox Church throughout time, is spoken of as a stronger bond than one has with one’s own blood kin.
Family relations Niyousha asked Helena to sponsor her, even though the priest had suggested another individual. For Niyousha, it was important to have someone from whom she could learn and who demonstrated a real, even maternal, care for her wellbeing. Expressed in her own words: Everyone [at St Æthelwald’s] was nice, but [Helena] was the one who showed an interest in me from the beginning. From the second or third time I met her, maybe even from the second time I met her, she walked all the way to the station with me, just me and her, and she was just talking with me for quite a while, for like ten minutes. She gave me her card, was like, ‘Call me or email me if you need anything.’ She was answering loads of questions, and from the beginning she was like, ‘So what name do you want,’ and that sort of thing. So she was very friendly from the beginning, um, also, she is quite maternal. She was like always ready to help me, so it kind of just fitted to her well. And also, I was always asking her questions, and it was just like, ah yeah, it’s not a bad idea.
96 Materials Fr Theophan was like, ‘Ask Rachel.’ I was like, ‘She’s been to church like twice the whole time I’ve been here and she’s like my age, there’s nothing she could teach me.’ Like, I had to tell Rachel something once. [She recounts this story.] I was not going to let Rachel be my godmother if I have to teach her stuff. I wanted someone I could actually go to for advice, so that’s why I picked [Helena]. The bond of godparent to godchild is understood to be an eternal one, and often takes on a very close fondness. With joy and anticipation, then, Helena stood by, ready to help give birth to this new person. Taking the name Christina, after the 6th-century martyr of Persia, she asked for permission to keep her former name as part of her Christian name. This, she reasoned, needed to happen, and must have happened in history, otherwise the pool of names for future catechumens would be too small. By keeping Niyousha as part of her name, she told me, she could add that to the pool of names should she die a martyr. In this process, it is very clear that Niyousha is choosing to produce herself in such a way as to open the possibility of adding to the motivic quality of the Church. In other words, as an index, she is seeking to position herself in relation to existing elements of the Church (Christ and St Christina) while enacting a ‘motivic transformation’ (Küchler 2013:27) by adding an element of ‘least difference’ (Gell 1998:218); by keeping ‘Niyousha’ and positioning herself as a possible martyr (a real possibility, she told me, considering her Muslim background), she comes into the Church not as a duplication of an existing ‘St Christina of Persia’, but as a unique index modelled after multiple prototypes. With jest and joke about a very serious matter, Niyousha and Helena, along with the priest and the entire congregation, prepare for the ritual death and birth, mixing the grave tones of the religious ceremony with humour woven in throughout the preparations.
By water and the Spirit The service itself began at the back of the nave, and Niyousha, Helena, and two young women gathered in the back to wait for the priest. A cousin of Niyousha’s, from Sweden, was in town for the week and came to support her. She was the only blood kin who knew this event was happening. The other young woman, Elizabeth, was herself at this time a catechumen, and became her godsister when she was likewise received by Baptism the following July. Niyousha was dressed in a simple ‘white’ (cream) laced smock and slippers. Helena held a candle, which would be lit and given to Niyousha-Christina to represent the uncreated light of Christ. Elizabeth held the garment of light, a bathrobe, and a blanket. The garment of light, which also represents the uncreated light of Christ, would be blessed and given to Niyousha by the priest after her Baptism. The blanket and bathrobe were (I am told) white not out of necessity (though I never saw another colour used), but simply because it seems more appropriate to follow
Materials of transformation 97 the pattern set out by the garment of light. Niyousha’s cousin stood by with a towel – also white. It is important to note that both the candle and the garment represent something called the uncreated light of Christ. This light, shown most clearly in the Transfiguration of Christ, is considered to be a light that, unlike created light, casts no shadow. It is the resplendence of God, the visible quality of his glory, and something in which he is clothed. Without a long discourse, it is nigh impossible to unpack the details of this symbolism –particularly as it is something rarely discussed at length by informants (or scholarly texts, for that matter). It is, however, something which very holy people are sometimes said to have, often described as a glow. What is important for the purposes of this book, particularly as it is developed in the final chapter, is that the light of a candle and the whiteness of cloth are both understood as representations of this light. While both are bright, one provides light and one can be worn. These two material qualities allow the uncreated light (as a shining that can be worn) to be represented with various emphases. When the priest is ready, he processes from the front to where they are at the back of the nave. While Helena stands to Niyousha’s side, the priest lays his hand on Niyousha’s head and prays for her, blessing her. He then commands any demons to leave her, and blows on her, moving his head such as to make the sign of the cross with his breath over her face and heart. He instructs her to turn, facing the wall, and asks a series of questions. Following the Russian form,16 most of these questions Fr Theophan asks relate to the rejection of heresies. Having affirmed, in essence, that she is not a heretic, and that she has rejected ‘Satan and all his minions and all his work’, she is asked to spit on Satan. Here Niyousha asks for clarification, and after being told again to spit on Satan, she does something that looks appropriately spit-ful. She is turned to face the altar again, and after reciting the creed, she is led outside to the temporary font. Against the harsh February cold, Helena holds her close to try to keep her warm while Fr Theophan blesses the water with which she will be immersed. First, with his hand, he blesses the water. Then, while the subdeacon holds the utensils, he blesses a small bowl of oil and pours the oil into the water, again forming the shape of the cross. With the remainder of this same oil, he uses a paintbrush to anoint Niyousha on the forehead, on the front and back of the neck, over the ears, and on the front and back of her hands. 16 In terms of the idiosyncratic nature of Fr Theophan’s practice, it is worth noting that his use of –at various times –Antiochian, Greek, Russian (and even adapted Roman Catholic) formulations of prayer is rather unusual. In most ‘traditional’ Orthodox contexts, a long- established history of textual use is in place. Even in the West, most bishops delimit what is allowed to be used in a parish quite strictly, following established typika (order of service, sg. typikon). There are important movements in the Orthodox Churches outside the traditionally Orthodox countries to try to standardise liturgical practices in the new language contexts. At the time of research, Fr Theophan enjoyed a fair bit of freedom in scripting the specific services.
98 Materials Once the water and the neophyte are both prepared, she is told to climb into her font. Met with the cold reality of climbing into a wine vat in front of a crowd of people on a busy, Central London street, Niyousha announces loudly that all males must turn around while she gets in. With the help of an additional handful of women, who hold the blanket as a visual shield, she situates herself in the barrel. After she announces that it is okay for the boys to turn around, the Baptism proceeds –but a new problem arises. Fr Theophan is not able to lift the tub of water, and so, with the help of the Reader and both servers, he guides the tub with one hand, reciting the invocation of Baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. With each name, the tub is tipped, allowing more water to pour over the baptised. With the final tip, a cry of anguish from the shivering victim, and a ripple of laughter in good cheer, the Baptism is complete. Again with help from the other ladies, Niyousha- Christina climbs out and stands waiting for it to be over, her teeth chattering audibly. Taking the garment of light, the priest blesses it and drapes it over Niyousha-Christina, leaving it to her godmother to help her change. Once she is in dry clothes, the service continues, but now at the front of the nave. Laid out on a small altar table in front of the ambon, Fr Theophan has a small Gospel book, a blessing cross, and the service book, as well as a small box in which he keeps the oil, paintbrush, and small bowl used earlier as well as Chrism, a pair of scissors, and a sponge. The priest takes the baptismal candle, lights it from one of the lights at the Holy Doors, and gives it to Niyousha-Christina, saying, ‘Let your light shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.’17 Then, after a short litany of prayers, the priest pours some of the Chrism into the bowl, and using the paintbrush again, anoints Niyousha-Christina on the forehead, mouth, and nose, over each eye and each ear, and on the nape of the neck, the top of the sternum, both hands, and both feet. With each, he proclaims ‘The seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit’,18 and the congregation responds, emphatically and jubilantly, ‘Sealed’.19 He then takes up the little pair of scissors and clips a few strands of her hair, tonsuring her ‘in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’. After sealing and tonsuring the newly illumined, the priest washes her, taking the sponge and a small amount of water, dabbing each place he had anointed with Chrism.20 Removing any excess of this highly sacred and guarded oil, he recites, ‘Thou art sanctified, thou art washed, thou 17 A quotation from Matthew 5:16. 18 The image of being sealed with the Holy Spirit can, like the aforementioned ‘old man’ image, be found in Ephesians 4. 19 I have seen elsewhere in the English-speaking Orthodox Church ‘Seal’ as the response, and from time to time one can hear both being said at St Æthelwald’s. In some parishes the people remain quiet, and the choir simply intones ‘Amen’ after each invocation by the priest. 20 This washing is usually done immediately following the anointing, as shown here. I have only seen this in one place, however, but I am told that this washing and the tonsure ‘should’, following ancient custom, be done a week following the Baptism.
Materials of transformation 99 art justified, thou art illumined’; and upon the conclusion of this, Niyousha- Christina, Helena, and the priest circle the small altar table arranged in front of the ambon three times in what is known as a ‘liturgical dance’, while the congregation sings the troparion for Baptism, ‘As many as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ, alleluia.’ Finally, the baptismal cross is taken from the small table, and the priest gives it to Niyousha-Christina. As is his practice, Fr Theophan tries for a while to put it on the newly baptised, but is usually unable to because of his poor eyesight, and leaves it for Helena to finish. After this, Fr Theophan greets the new person and the godmother with the customary three kisses on the cheek, and then returns into the Altar to begin the Liturgy. Helena and Niyousha-Christina join the congregation in the Liturgy, and the servers clear the small altar table to the side. In the culmination of the Liturgy, when Christ is presented to the people in the chalice, Niyousha-Christina, with her godmother behind her, comes forward first to receive her first Communion. Following her come the children, often ordered from youngest to oldest, likewise held or guided by their parent or godparent. As such, the newborn Niyousha-Christina partakes of the bread soaked in water and fortified red wine, and her union into the Church is completed. Her ‘new life in Christ’ begins in full. It is through the anointing of oil, the washing in water, the clipping of hair, the blowing of breath, the burning of the candle, and the dressing in white that the transformation of Niyousha is affected. The waters of Baptism wash her, and again she is washed with the sponge. The oil of anointing sets her apart, and again the oil of Chrism seals that sanctification (i.e. that setting apart). The hair is taken in obedience and as a first offering, and many more times again things will be asked of Niyousha-Christina as an obedience and an offering. The material transformations parallel and constitute the transformation of person from outside to inside. The death of Niyousha and the birth of Niyousha-Christina are her initiation into her new status as an Orthodox Christian. In her new life she is a member of the family, but also begins a process of ‘becoming Orthodox’.
6 Materials of ikonicity
In Niyousha-Christina’s bright, colourful way of retelling her Baptism, she expressed that the worst part of it was not the biting cold –remember there was snow on the ground that February morning –but, rather, that with the volume of water being poured over her, and the rapidity with which they timed the tripartite bath, she was left gasping for air. It was, she expressed to me, as though they were saying ‘Here’s some more, bitch!’ It is this totalising experience that is addressed in this section now. Through discussing issues of nomenclature, participation, and ikonicity, the chapter teases out the new sociability that has been enacted through Baptism and Chrismation. The newly illumined person’s new sociality is, most centrally, understood to be a relationship to the person of Christ as experienced in normative modes of daily life but also, most explicitly, in the ikons and the Eucharistic feast. The social (and intersubjective) relationship to Christ is also extended to other people, such as the Martyr Christina of Persia, Helena, and others both local and not, within Orthodoxy and not. This intersubjectivity is, as has been shown in the previous chapter, concretised in various material registers. As such, this chapter turns to examine the materials used to articulate the transformation and process of becoming. The material aspects of this ritual should, therefore, be kept in mind as the chapter moves forward.
Names With Niyousha-Christina, it is easy to see the continuity of the name through the process of becoming Orthodox. This, as mentioned above, was a very conscious choice on her part, as she did not want to give up her Farsi identity to become Greek or English. For some, such as Andrew, who had been received only a month earlier, the new identity in Christ maintained the old name, giving it new meaning. Others, like Mary, took a middle name and turned it into their principal name. For Mary, this was understood to be a long awaited fulfilment of her dedication to Mary, the Mother of God. Others, however, changed their name entirely; for example, Harry choosing Seraphim. In each case, the new name is associated with a saint who becomes a patron for the individual. It is to this saint that the Orthodox Christian may make
Materials of ikonicity 101 regular petition, and, over time, some come to have quite close relationships of affinity with that glorified person. This is not to say that the new Christian does not also invoke others, and most obviously Christ, but this saint whose name the baptised now bears is understood to be present and available to that individual in a special way. In fact, in many cases, this bond of affinity starts quite early and is one of the influences by which the catechumen comes to pick the new name. Take Seraphim. While a catechumen, he visited the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Knightsbridge. Coming in, he felt drawn to one particular ikon, and ended up spending the entire service there, in front of the ikon of St Seraphim of Sarov. Knowing almost nothing about the man, he nonetheless sensed a strong connection toward this saint. The next Sunday he ordered an ikon of St Seraphim through the St Æthelwald’s Book Store, and began seeking help from him in prayer; through this, the affinity grew till he was certain he wished to take the saint’s name. It is by this name that the man-formerly- known-as-Harry is now called, and even in cases such as Niyousha-Christina, who is often still called simply ‘Niyousha’ within the St Æthelwald’s community, the new, patron’s name is the one used when the Orthodox Christian comes forward to partake of the Eucharist or other sacraments and blessings.
Participation For the Orthodox Christian to partake of the Eucharist is for her to participate in the Eucharist. This practice is ultimately one of divine commensality and a practice comparable to the consumption of human remains as ‘corpse medicine’ (Sugg 2011), as the substance consumed is understood mystically to be the body and blood of Jesus, eaten for the ‘healing of body and soul’. But it goes further than traditional corpse medicine, as the body of Christ, and therefore the Eucharist, is understood to be both completely human and purely divine.1 While much of the literature on Eastern Christianity attests to only periodic communion, centred around major festal events, it is quite common for those in the St Æthelwald’s community to partake of the Eucharist each week –though this is not true of everyone. One woman in her mid-eighties, who converted half a century ago, still follows the Russian practice into which she was received, of only communing once or twice a year and only after going to confession.2 For the majority of those at St Æthelwald’s, communion is received each week. Niyousha-Christina expresses her reason for this practice by saying, ‘as I need all the salvation I can get, I take it’. The juxtaposition and metonymy are at once a tongue-in-cheek expression of her own inefficiency and reliance 1 And the Eucharist, in Orthodox theology, is also still bread and wine. 2 It is fair to note that most Russian Orthodox practice today does encourage more regular participation, but still only after confession. When those from St Æthelwald’s visit the Russian Cathedral, they likewise go to confession if they are intending to partake there.
102 Materials on aid toward the desired goal of salvation and also a quite profound analysis of the Eucharist as itself a salvific thing. If one listens to the declarative pronouncements recited in the anaphora, or prayers of consecration (literally ‘offering up’), and the theology implicit in these prayers, then yes: The soupy mixture is expressly understood to be the person of Christ; Christ is the means of salvation; ergo, participating in the Eucharist is literally having more salvation. But it is also helpful, here, to consider it by other means. By regarding the bread, wine, and water as a person, Orthodox Christians imbue it with a potent agency. Communion is understood to heal the participating Christian ‘body and soul’. This may be read initially as medicinal, and it is. At the end of one Liturgy, Fr Theophan expressed to the congregation his thanksgiving over what he professed to be a little miracle. Even though, he pointed out, he was ‘a man of little faith’ and ‘a sceptic’, Christ had healed him that morning of a troublesome cold sore. He had had it all that morning, and through the Liturgy, but noticed just after he had partaken of the Eucharist that his mouth was healed. He wished to encourage the congregation with this, emphasising that the Eucharist was always miraculous, affecting the healing of the individual, even when it did not play out in such an obvious way. Affectively, it is often expressed that the Eucharist lifts the person, or brightens them somehow. Individuals speak of particularly needing it some weeks, as the potency of the substance is felt to affect the individual in positive ways. Along with this sensorial benefit, teachings about the Eucharist also attest to a similar, and yet much more profound, benefit. Speaking of eating together in a very different context, Viveiros de Castro has noted ‘the ontological productivity of commensality’ (1998:62), and it is exactly this sort of productivity that can be seen here, enacted through the Eucharistic feast. However, whereas in the Amazonian case commensality is a primary means to avoid metamorphosis (lest by eating something else the person become a jaguar or tapir) (Vilaça 2011:247), the Eucharist is designed to realign and heighten kinship relations through an ontological shift in terms of the participants’ personhood. Eating the same foods, as Sahlins argues, makes people ‘consubstantial’ (2011:4); and Carsten, in her work on kinship, notes that eating the same foods and living in the same house produces people with the same ‘blood’, such that kinship is produced by commensality (2004). The eating of the Eucharistic ‘one bread’ is understood to link all Orthodox Christians together as ‘one body’3 in the Church, through an ontologically4 3 Cf 1 Corinthians 10:17. The metalepsis of oneness seen in bread, body, the Church, and Christ rests in the Pauline language of the many participating in and comprising together the loaf of communion, which itself is Christ. There are curious numerological meditations and imagistic inversions that can flow from this, but for our purposes here, the importance is simply to note the strength that the Eucharist has as a point of social cohesion and itself a social constituent. 4 Ontology, when spoken of in the Orthodox context of this book, should be read as the essence of being. Save when seen in quotations, such as that of Viveiros de Castro, it is not taken within the ongoing debates of the ‘ontological turn’.
Materials of ikonicity 103 transformative ‘becoming- in- communion’ (Loudovikos 2010:179). Thus, while Durkheim (working from the Protestant theologian Robertson Smith) argues that the nature of ‘alimentary communion’ means that the sacredness of ‘a sacred thing [is] transferred to the worshipper who eats it’ (1915:337), the ‘eucharistic ontology’ (Loudovikos 2010) into which Orthodox communicants are understood to enter is more akin to the totemic communion Durkheim describes in that ‘they communicate with the sacred principle residing in it and they assimilate it5’ (1915:337). This is not only true of those within one parish community, partaking of one episode’s bread and wine. It is true of all Orthodox Eucharists ever –past, present, and future –because they are all understood to be the same event. Each episode of participation with the Eucharist must be understood as the same event-moment. Drawing on the ancient Greek distinction between chronos (chronological time) and kairos (time opportune for action), each Liturgy is understood to be one kairotic moment. Likewise, each Eucharist is the same kairotic moment as the crucifixion. This is a highly important theological truth for the Orthodox Christian; otherwise, Christ did not die once and for all.6 It is also something people mentioned and wondered at from time to time throughout my research. If this is the same event-moment, being experienced episodically, then how is it that some iterations are experienced more vividly? –more intimately? –more profoundly? –or, more troublingly, sometimes with little evident effect and too much distraction? The reason for the affective differences between episodes of Eucharistic engagement is not differences in the Eucharist, I was told, but ultimately differences in the individuals. Fr Theophan explained the principle to me, pointing out that many theologians understand the Eucharist to affect a complete theosis in the communicant; but, because of human weakness, that divine likeness is lost immediately. Each episode of commensality is understood, then, as a process of turning toward God, being united with God, and then separating oneself from God. It is the goal of the Christian, Fr Theophan explains, to limit the turning away. As such, Eucharistic commensality affects a complete metamorphosis of the individual into something else –unifying the Orthodox Christian with every other who likewise participates in the together-eating. The unity created through this consumption is understood in terms of blood kinship. In fact, it is a blood kinship that outdoes normative understandings of biological kin, or that ‘of the flesh’, as Fr Theophan euphemistically refers to it. Participation in the Eucharist thus is understood to link the individual with every other Orthodox Christian in the world, regardless of time and place. The outpouring of this global kin network is seen in St Æthelwald’s response 5 The causal link implied in ‘assimilate it’, rather than a phrasing like ‘are transfigured into it’, however, may be a serious point of contention. The ontology understood in the Orthodox context is one that the person becomes into. 6 Cf 1 Peter 3.18; Romans 6.10.
104 Materials to the crisis in Syria, wherein the appeal was made by Fr Theophan from the ambon for support, both prayer and fiscal, for ‘our brothers and sisters’ who are ‘of the same blood’ as those in the St Æthelwald’s congregation. Similar comparisons were made in response to the terrorist attacks in Moscow, the strife in Greece, the political unrest across North Africa, et cetera. By eating the same bread, Orthodox Christians throughout the world come to be knit together, and while travelling in traditionally Orthodox countries this is often felt. Particularly when on pilgrimage, strangers who are not obviously Orthodox (i.e. not Greek) are asked –often even before names are exchanged –if they are Orthodox. Very rarely did I see hostility against those who were not Orthodox, and even then it was done in a jocund spirit. On the other hand, when the stranger did profess to be Orthodox, an immediate response of familiality ensued. This heightened sociality on the horizontal axis is also paired with a similar sociality produced through the Eucharist on the vertical axis. The kairotic time of the Eucharist is, as noted earlier, identical to that of the Crucifixion. It is also identical to that of the Last Supper. (Ecclesiologically, I was told, there is actually no such thing as the passage of time. Everything is one moment: now.) As such, it is not only a meal eating of Christ, it is also a meal eaten with Christ. Here, Niyousha-Christina’s comment concerning needing all the salvation she can get should be remembered. If the act of commensality produces a metamorphosis of the disparate individuals toward the unity of being one bread, one blood, it likewise also produces a unity with Christ. This is materially demonstrable in the simple fact that the foodstuffs on the spoon are taken into the body of the Christian and become part of her, but it is also understood to be true on a much more meaningful, ikonic level. The participation in the Eucharist, or, more broadly stated, the participation in salvation, works to produce the individual as an ikon of Christ.
Ikonicity Ikonicity is here defined as having an imagistic relation (i.e. being like an icon) of something else, wherein that prototypical ‘other’, and consequently the resulting relation, is perceived to be holy. That is, the likeness affords participation. Holy ikons are seen to (re)present the holy, affording the kind of intersubjectivity spoken of earlier. In this way, the ikon, and the resulting quality of ikonicity, might be seen to exhibit qualities denoted by both Charles Sanders Peirce’s (1955) icon and index. Roman Jakobson (1971) builds on Peirce’s classification of icon, index, and symbol, making a useful fourfold classification. Jakobson offers a matrix of similarity versus contiguity and factual versus imputed, resulting in the icon (factual similar), the index (factual contiguous), the motivic symbol (imputed similar), and the artificial symbol (imputed continuity). The ikon exhibits a factual, formal similarity (icon); and it is a functional medium of contiguity with the prototype (index). It may also be seen to have the quality of motivic symbol, as it is imputed to have a qualitative
Materials of ikonicity 105
Figure 6.1 Diagram of Jakobson’s fourfold distinction.
similarity to the holy that it represents. While I will return later to the idea of the ikon as a motivic symbol, at this point its quality as an icon and index is more important in understanding how the idea of ikonicity is deployed. This indexical and iconic quality of ikons is seen to be a fundamental property of the human person. All humanity is, I was told, made in the image and likeness of God. While there is variation in how this is understood, and what it particularly means, especially in reference to humanity after the ‘Sin of Adam’, this relationship of ikonicity to God undergirds the universal dignity of humankind. This innate quality is addressed in the subsection immediately following. However, this is only one type of ikonicity Orthodox Christians have. This second, acquired, ikonicity is addressed subsequently. Ikonicity part 1: innate As indicated, this relationship of prototypicality to God gives to all human kind an innate dignity. Not only is the person an ikon of God, but also the body, even of the dead, is an ikon of the living (cf Carroll 2016a). As such, the body is still owed certain dignities and is an admissible object of veneration, for as with all ikons, the honour given the index (e.g. an ikon of Mary) is received by the prototype (e.g. Mary). This double degree of ikonicity (body to person to God) is true in both life and death. As such, Orthodox Christians are not allowed to be cremated,7 and even catechumens are instructed 7 I have heard of anomalies to what was relayed to me as a universal practice. For example, all persons in urban centres of Japan must, by law, be cremated. In such settings of need, oikonomia is given such that cremation is acceptable.
106 Materials that if they desire an Orthodox funeral (to which they become entitled as catechumens), they must have arrangements for burial. At funerals, of which there was only one during my research, that of the priest Fr Gabriel, the body is displayed in the open casket with feet toward the Altar.8 With the body of the dead, there is a twofold relation of ikonic (re)presentation. Matthew Engelke’s (2012) work on atheist and humanist funerals in London notes the care with which the celebrant must obviate the dominant centred position of the casket, suggesting through gesture and discourse the release which the person has undergone, promising at once no afterlife and no identity of the deceased as rooted in the biomatter situated in the casket. In stark contrast to this, the open casket is front and centre, and there is simultaneously understood to be an afterlife and the continuity of the personhood rooted in the biomatter found in the casket. (For an excellent discussion and visual presentation of the burial process in a traditional Orthodox village, see Danforth and Tsiaras 1982 and Kligman 1988.) In discussing Fr Gabriel in reference to his funeral, it was obvious that the body was Fr Gabriel and likewise Fr Gabriel was, alternatively, in heaven, participating in the Heavenly Liturgy, or sleeping. In this way, the body, dressed in the triumphal white vestments of Baptism and Pascha, was Fr Gabriel, present and among his blood kin –that is, fellow Orthodox Christians –and old friends and ecumenical delegates from his Charismatic Anglican days. His placement, directly in front of the ambon, also draws to the fore the second ikonic (re)presentation: that of body as ikon. This same placement, in front of the ambon, is also the traditional location for festal ikons. And, following the practice with festal ikons, those attending the funeral may come forward and with a metania (low bow) cross themselves before kissing the body (usually forehead and/or hands) in identical fashion to how one would, as discussed in Chapter 2, venerate an ikon.9 In this moment, at the funeral, it is treated as an ikon of the person, something to be fellowshipped with and a material both identical to and differentiated from the person. The body continues, in the case of saints, to be a mode of intersubjective relational engagement with the person long into the future. For most, however, this relic-like status is only temporary, insofar as the body is still representationally similar to the person (i.e. the likeness [factual similarity, in Jakobson’s paradigm] of the person can be seen in the formal quality of the biomaterial) –though Danforth and Tsiaras (1982) demonstrate a lasting affinity (factual contiguity, in Jakobson’s paradigm) in a Greek village between the living and the dead, through their exhumed bones. 8 I have been told on a number of occasions, though I have never seen evidence of this, that reigning bishops preside over their own funeral, seated in a cathedra. A primary account of St John Maximovich indicates that he may have wished this to be done if he should, as indeed he did, die while still bishop of San Francisco (Loukianoff 1991). 9 See du Boulay (2009:224, 317) for a description of Greek village practice, wherein much of the mourning is carried out in the home; here, too, the likeness between the body (relics, ‘leipsana’ in Greek, literally means ‘remains’) and ikons as elements of veneration is evident.
Materials of ikonicity 107 Ikonicity part 2: acquired The socialities contingent on the ikonicity of the human person to God are furthered by a secondary ikonicity of the Orthodox Christian person to Christ. In Baptism, the individual becomes an ikon of Christ, and the various elements used in Baptism enact and (re)present this transformation. What does it mean to be an ikon of Christ? It is, I was told, to be an ikon, or image, of him. This entails being like him, participating in his attributes and, more importantly, his life, death, and resurrection. This could be seen in line with Jakobson’s motivic symbol (imputed similarity), or, in other words, it is to participate, ever more increasingly, in the kenosis, or emptying/humility, of Christ. As discussed in the Introduction, kenosis, or the ‘emptying of the self’, has been identified as a recurrent aspect of Orthodox spiritual praxis (Hunt 1991; Naletova 2010; Naumescu 2010b, 2013). In the same relation of index to prototype (Gell 1998), the Orthodox Christian is made into an ikon of Christ such that Christ’s primary agency may be seen to be concretised in person-as-index. The goal, as Niyousha-Christina expressed it, of becoming a saint is to fulfil this likeness and by such also share in the godhood of Christ. In emic, theological terms, this is ‘theosis’, to ‘become by grace what God is by nature’. Returning to the ritual of Baptism, with the inalienability of the body in mind, it can be seen that the material manipulations of the body, which transformed Niyousha into the ikon-of-Christ-Niyousha-Christina, have a real, constitutive effect on the person, body, and by extension, soul. Baptism and Chrismation, through the washing with water, the anointing with oil, the giving of light, and dressing with a new garment, operate the transformation of the outsider, making her into an ikon of Christ. In this new position she is then able to fulfil the prototypicality of Christ, partaking in his body through divine commensality and fellowship with the wider body of Christ, that is, the Church.
The new socialities of Niyousha-Christina Through Baptism and Chrismation, by taking a new name and coming ‘into the fold’, Niyousha-Christina acquired new kin alliances that open new avenues of relationability, a new mode of life and prayer. As with Seraphim and his patron saint, Niyousha-Christina likewise has a model of her life in that of Christina of Persia. Often the relationship to one’s patron (particularly among converts to Orthodoxy who are able to choose, rather than be ‘given’ one by parents or godparents as an infant) is one of admiration, wherein the saint’s biography represents something the individual wishes to emulate. In this way, the new Christian identifies herself in a relation- of-becoming-like to both Christ and the patron saint, who herself is like Christ. As such, it may be understood, as outlined earlier, as an ‘art-like- situation’ (Gell 1998) in which Niyousha-Christina is conforming herself
108 Materials into something new, modelled on the dual prototypicality of St Christina and Christ. In being born into this new position of becoming Orthodox, she also gains a new mother, Helena. When asked about her relationship with Helena a year after her Baptism, she saw this as having continued to develop, even to the point that she had become close to Helena’s husband (whom she calls her step-godfather) as well. Even though Helena’s husband is not an Orthodox Christian (hence the ‘step’ relation), she has been drawn into the familial love of Helena’s home and often seeks advice from them on spiritual, professional, and personal levels. When asked about her spiritual life and knowledge of Orthodoxy, Niyousha-Christina described her on-going –as before, predominantly internet-based –study of her faith. Along with the spiritual counsel she receives from Fr Theophan and her godmother, she also reads widely and listens to Orthodox podcasts produced by the internet radio station Ancient Faith Radio. As for many other Orthodox Britons, both in my fieldsite and more widely across the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world,10 English resources are scarce, and thus there is a reliance on a limited set of blogs and podcasts to supply an Orthodox voice on whatever the individual may be looking for –be it news, theological preponderance, monastic wisdom, or gossip and titillation. Along with these resources at, as it were, her doorstep and fingertip, Niyousha-Christina also has made a point of making the circle mapped out in Chapter 3, travelling to traditional Orthodox countries. Travelling to Serbia and Crete, Niyousha-Christina deepened her appreciation and understanding of aspects of Orthodoxy such as furniture, buildings, and the attitudes toward the ikons and temples –she notes, for example, the body practice in Crete of crossing oneself when passing the temple. What is seen coming out of her Baptism is not only a religious understanding of her spiritual wellbeing, but an entirely new regime of mobility and confraternity. Water Baptism is to happen only once in life. The creation of holy water by the priest and the ritual bathing in the water are the central material image of Baptism, which itself comes from the Greek for ‘to submerge’. But, while this enacted death is done only once, the Orthodox Christian comes into contact with the same water regularly. The waters of Baptism are the same waters that are made for the feast of Theophany, in commemoration of Christ’s own Baptism in the Jordan. This consubstantial fact of the holy waters is most explicitly 10 During the periods on Mt Athos, the English-speaking (mostly Greek-)Australians and New Zealanders, as well as those from Canada, seemed to know many of the common resources. No comprehensive data was gathered in this regard, but podcasts such as those by Kevin Allen and Kh Krista West, or blogs such as ByzTex or (before it was taken down) OCANews, were widely recognized names.
Materials of ikonicity 109 seen in the fact that the water blessed in the Great Blessing of the Waters on the feast of Theophany may be used immediately to baptise (without the usual prayers of blessing used in anticipation of Baptism). The Great Blessing of the Waters commemorates, as the priest intones in the blessing, the ‘drowning in the Jordan the death of disobedience, the sting of error and bond of hades, [thus] granting the world the baptism of salvation’ (AOCANA 2010:440). Again, blessing the water, he says: And give [this water] the grace of redemption, the blessing of Jordan. Make it a fountain of incorruption, a gift of sanctification, a remission of sins, a protection against disease, a destruction of demons, inaccessible to hostile powers, filled with angelic might. And may it be to all those who draw of it and partake of it unto the cleansing of souls and bodies, unto the healing of passions, unto the sanctification of homes and unto every expedient purpose. (ibid.:442) This water, made holy to grant ‘the baptism of salvation’ and made for the ‘cleansing of souls and bodies’ of those who partake of it, is made available to the faithful for daily use. After the feast of Theophany, or other Lesser Blessings of the Water, should the priest deem that more holy water is needed, congregants bring bottles and take it home with them to drink or bless themselves and the house as needed. The warden, Chris, for example, keeps a decanter of holy water in his ikon corner, with a glass turned face down for ready use. Often in the morning, and particularly if he feels he needs ‘just a little bit extra’ for the day, he drinks a shot of holy water as part of his morning prayers. When Joanna moved into her new flat, she felt very ill at ease and insisted that her employer (me11) sprinkle holy water about, particularly singling out the various doorways to the property. I suggested she was welcome to do it if she liked, but she insisted that the responsibility fell to me, ‘as the man of the house’. Contact with holy water is also regularly practised in the parish, where after each blessing of the water the holy water is sprinkled over the congregation (and the entire building, especially portals such as doors and ikons), and individuals preparing for travel are likewise given a blessing and sprinkled with the water. As noted elsewhere in Orthodoxy (Antohin 2014; du Boulay 2009), this concept of ‘a blessing’ is perfuse, and prayers of blessing often are complemented by the sprinkling (or splashing) of holy water on people, cars, animals, property, et cetera. The water itself is holy, however, and no lexical prayer need be said; as in the case of the Sarakatsani man mentioned in the Introduction, the partaking of the material is itself prayer. 11 The reader will remember that I hired Joanna as the nanny for my infant son. Her unease was, I think, in part due to the presence of a Kali idol, as well as some other pagan imagery, left in the flat by the previous tenants.
110 Materials Oil As with water, oil similar to that used in Baptism is used repeatedly within Orthodox daily life. Earlier, holy oil and the oil of Chrism are consistently listed separately. The oil of Chrism is a particularly special oil, often called ‘Holy Myrrh’, which may be consecrated only by the reigning hierarch of an autocephalous (i.e. self-ruled) Orthodox jurisdiction (e.g. the Patriarchs of Constantinople, or Moscow, or the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America).12 Most will only be anointed with this myrrh once, though there are cases when Chrismation may be done again, for example if someone baptised as a child has left the Church and returns later in life.13 In this case, the stark departure from the Church warrants the reapplication of the Seal of the Holy Spirit, which the Chrism is understood to bestow, and the laying on of hands. Along with this sacramental oil, there is also the oil of Holy Unction, consecrated by a bishop and seven priests (or the nearest to that number that can be gathered) for the anointing of the sick. This oil, usually made on the Wednesday of Holy Week, is also considered one of the seven mysteries of the Orthodox faith. Along with these two, consecrated and sacramental oils, there is also a multiplicity of blessed holy oils made available to Orthodox Christians through various means. As seen above in preparing Niyousha to be baptised, Fr Theophan blessed a small bowl full of olive oil. He then poured some blessed oil into the waters to be used in Baptism and used some to bless Niyousha in preparation for Baptism. The application of oil, done with a gesture of the cross, is understood to confer the blessing of God, made present in the oil, likewise through the gesture of the cross and prayers, on the person. Olive oil may similarly become blessed through use. The oil burned in the oil lamps before ikons is understood to be given to the saint and become blessed by the saint. Thus, during the Walsingham pilgrimage described in Chapter 3, the priest at the chapel shrine invited every pilgrim forward to be blessed by the oil that burned in the candle before the ikon of Our Lady of Walsingham (Carroll 2015). There, the oil was still hot as the priest dipped a paintbrush and blessed each pilgrim, painting a cross on the forehead of each after they had come forward to venerate the ikon of Our Lady. The pilgrim, in turn, then kissed the priest’s hand. At Vatopedi, pilgrims are similarly blessed with the oil associated with whomever is celebrated at the particular vigil. For example, on the Feast of the Holy Zone (spoken of in Chapter 9), a priest
12 This is always done in Holy Week, culminating on Great and Holy Thursday. The Constantinopolitan Patriarch does this, on average, once every ten years (Menevissoglou 2012). The OCA did it for the first time in its history in 2012 (Gripas 2012). It is done only when the previous batch runs low. 13 Historically, Holy Myrrh was also used in the coronation of Christian Emperors (Menevissoglou 2012 mentions this. It was also a topic of discussion from time to time among Russophiles at St Æthelwald’s).
Materials of ikonicity 111 stands next to the lamp burning in front of the festal ikon, dipping a small baton-like utensil with a soft, possibly cotton, tip and anointing each monk and pilgrim. Oil associated with a saint through use in such a lamp may also be distributed to pilgrims. Almost every pilgrim who comes to Vatopedi leaves with a small plastic eye-dropper-type vial of oil that had been in the lamp hanging before the wonder-working Panagia Pantanassa (All-Holy Queen of All) ikon. Together with a little ribbon that the monastery blesses over the Holy Zone, these are given, sometimes in fistfuls, in order for the pilgrims to carry back home. This oil and piece of ribbon are understood to be relics of the Panagia. Along with the holy water, Chris, mentioned earlier, also keeps just such a vial he received from a pilgrim returning from Vatopedi. He uses it regularly, anointing his hip or knee, both of which give him chronic problems. While in Vatopedi in 2011, one of my roommates, a very devout Romanian man in his mid-thirties, made sure I knew ‘how to practise’ the holy oil. He demonstrated, crossing himself, then squeezing the small vial of oil he had received from St Andrew’s Skete, elsewhere on the Holy Mountain, in order to let pool a small droplet of the holy oil on the tip of the dropper. He stressed to me this technique, as it was not wasteful, but produced just enough to leave the sign of the cross glistening on one’s forehead. Holding the vial in his right hand, he then moved it to his forehead, and with the motion from top, down and right to left, he said ‘Through the prayers of St Andrew, in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’ He explained then that this gave the blessing of the saint and of God to whoever used it. If I were sick, he said, I could pray ‘for the healing of body and soul’, whatever the case –the oil was like medicine, but better. The pilgrim then gave me the vial of oil from St Andrew, encouraging me to use it right then, and each morning henceforth. Light Light is a recurrent theme in Baptism. Most obviously, the neophyte is referred to as ‘the newly illumined’. The garment of light is given to the initiate, dressing her as Christ, ‘who’, as it is read each vesperal service, ‘coverest [him]self with light as with a garment’ (Psalm 10314). For a child’s Baptism, three small taper candles are lit at the front of the font, facing the Altar (that is, on the side opposite of the priest as he faces East, holding the baby). Such tapers are identical to, and at St Æthelwald’s taken from the same cache of candles as, the candles lit in prayer by congregants as they enter the temple for prayer. Lastly, there is the baptismal candle itself. This candle is brought by the godparent and lit during the course of the Baptism, usually directly after 14 Psalm 103 (as counted in the Septuagint) opens each Great Vespers, and as such is heard every Saturday evening. The translation here is taken from Holy Transfiguration Monastery (2009), the text used at St George’s Cathedral and found in the Prayer Book Fr Theophan recommends to his congregation.
112 Materials the Baptism or after Chrismation. In Niyousha-Christina’s case, the candle was lit and given to her as she returned from changing into her garment of light. It is given during the rite of Baptism with the priest instructing: ‘Let your light shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.’ Even in those traditions where the candle is not given to the newly illumined until after the Chrismation, and likewise at St Æthelwald’s when Fr Theophan is forgetful, a candle is given to the neophyte and their sponsor before what is referred to as the ‘liturgical dance’. As mentioned above, after Baptism, Chrismation, washing, and tonsuring, there is a procession around the small altar table three times. The priest is on one side, and the neophyte and sponsor on the opposite. As the congregation sings ‘As many as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ, alleluia’, those involved in the dance move in an anticlockwise fashion, pausing at each cardinal point long enough for the priest to cense across the font and (or in its absence) the small altar. This song, sung at every Baptism, is also sung during the Liturgies of Theophany and Pascha. This serves to remind Orthodox of their status (and obligation) in Christ, but also denotes the similitude between these feasts. Fundamentally, these celebrations are all the same event. The baptised status of all Orthodox Christians is reiterated materially at Theophany through the sprinkling of water on the entire congregation and at Pascha by the giving out of light by the priest. Taking his Paschal Candle, which is decorated much like baptismal candles, he lights it from one of the altar candles and presents it to the congregation. Each in turn, the congregants light their candles from the one held by the priest. Similarly to the invocation to the newly illumined to let her light shine after Baptism, those at Pascha are instructed to ‘Come ye, take light from the Light that is never overtaken by night. Come, glorify the Christ risen from the dead’ (AOCANA 2010:373). Hair So far, for each of the material elements examined, it has been shown that the object or substance used in Baptism and Chrismation will also continue to be used by the faithful in similar ways. This same sort of continuity will likewise be demonstrated in this and the following subsections, but pause is needed to make this point explicit, as hair is a bit more abstract. The tonsuring done at Baptism may or may not have meaning. Some priests indicate that it is first fruits, that is, something taken from the self and sacrificed. Other priests interpret the hair as a symbol of strength (likely drawing on Old Testament and Aristotelian understandings of hair15) to say that the snipping of the hair for God denotes a dedication of one’s strength to him. Other priests have brushed 15 Consider, for example, the Old Testament account of Samson’s strength, which was contingent on his Nazaritic vows; upon his hair being cut, he lost his ability to fight and protect Israel. For Aristotelian understanding of hair, see his Problemata, where hair is linked to
Materials of ikonicity 113 aside my questions, simply saying, ‘We do it because we are told to. It is obedience, there is no other meaning.’ What is particularly noteworthy concerning this last answer is that this is not ‘ritual in its own right’ (Handelman 2004); the indigenous witness confesses to doing ritual as one does life. For Fr Theophan, this sort of thing falls into the category of mystagogy. This type of theological thought is quite open to interpretation. Two people, for example, may take away distinct symbolic or exegetical interpretations of the same liturgical act, but, as long as neither contradicts the spirit and import of the whole, they are both valid meditations. Here we see the space in Orthodox praxis for opinion and interpretation. Various spiritual fathers and mothers may teach or write down such ponderings and meditations, but they are never to be seen as dogma or even doctrine.16 Whichever mystagogy listed in the preceding paragraphs we take to interpret the cutting of the hair, one basic tenet comes through: tonsuring is a visible, physical adjustment to the human body indicative of an orientation to God, which will need to be taken over and over again. Those who become monastics will literally be tonsured again, but all Orthodox Christians will be expected to sacrifice, to offer, to obey continuously throughout their lived practice. The Eucharist As mentioned earlier, each Eucharistic feast can be understood to be the same one. Each is the same kairotic moment, and as such, the iterative participation in the Eucharist which Niyousha-Christina began on the day of her Baptism can be understood as a mystical return to the same moment. Each of the previous substances discussed is revisited throughout the Orthodox Christian life. The Eucharist adds a new dimension to that visitation, as it is not simply an iterative habit, but is the same event-moment visited recursively. Each Eucharist is the same as the Incarnation culminating in the Crucifixion, and like the archetypal narrative of chronic time, each is effective to fulfil the ‘work of salvation’. As mentioned above, this is done through participation in the Eucharist, which is to say, the communicant becomes of the same ontology as the Eucharist. This Eucharistic ontology (Loudovikos 2010), made through each act of divine commensality is performed repeatedly –not because each act is insufficient in its own, but because the ‘turning away’ (Fr Theophan’s words) of the human heart is understood to have an abortive effect on the Eucharistic regeneration. fertility as a vacuum for reproductive potency; or, for other applications of this ancient Greek understanding of hair into Christianity, see Martin (2004). 16 Fr Theophan, in the classes which he teaches as part of an Orthodox academic institute in Cambridge, makes the point of delineating between Dogma, that laid down in the Creed and Ecumenical Canons; Doctrine, that which necessarily follows from the Creed and the Canons; and Divine Opinions, which are holy ponderings and interpretations –mystagogical thoughts fall into this last category.
Enduring and positional efficacy Much as with normal food, the person returns to the holy substances throughout the chronology of their life. The nutrition gained from one meal is efficacious and long-lasting, as the body takes the nutrients into itself, growing more fit and well because of it. But, even so, one must eat again. Having lunch does not nullify breakfast, nor does today’s dinner demonstrate a failure of yesterday’s. Likewise, the continual engagement with holy oils, blessed water, the Eucharist, and so many other means and modes of receiving unto the person blessings is an enduring, cumulative process. Each is entirely sufficient to meet the needs of the body and soul, and yet is still added to as one continues living. It is the suggestion here offered that these substances therefore be understood to have enduring efficacy within the Orthodox Christian practice of material religion. While most things involved in the Baptism and Chrismation rites have this sort of fecundity, there is one substance that does not: that is, fabric. As will be seen more fully in the next chapter, fabric does not fit the paradigm of substances of enduring efficacy. The priest, for example, may only perform certain acts of his sacerdotal ministry if he is wearing certain objects of cloth. In the Liturgy, he says that he is ‘clothed in the grace of the priesthood’, and it is quite literally the items of cloth which are understood to bestow the grace and authority of the priesthood. The epitrachelion, specifically, must be worn in order to absolve sins and to approach the Holy Table to conduct a service. Without this stole, the priest is unable to fulfil these aspects of the office. In fact, an Orthodox priest needs three things to conduct a service as a priest: along with a valid antimension (as discussed in the previous chapter), he must have his vestments, and –as was seen in Chapter 2 when I arrived at St George’s –the priest must also have a congregation. The next chapter outlines the process by which vestments render the priest an embodied ikon of Christ- as-priest. It is in this capacity that the priest is then able to stand before the Holy Table as a synecdochal representation of the congregation. The next chapter discusses at length the items of fabric used in transforming the priest (already an ikon of Christ, as every other Orthodox Christian is, too) into an embodied ikon of Christ as priest. In examining this case study, the nature of fabric and its indexical qualities as employed in Orthodox worship are made clear. Here, it is only necessary to make the point that fabric does not have enduring efficacy like oil and food. Fabric, taciturn as it is, may be taken off, and when the priest divests after each Liturgy, he takes off the part of the ‘grace of the priesthood’ that allows him to stand on behalf of the congregation as an embodied ikon of Christ. This switching on and off of potential action is due to what I am calling the positional efficacy of fabric, something discussed in depth in the next chapter.
7 Becoming an ikon
This chapter is about the liturgical vestments of the priest, but it is important to note that lexically ‘vestment’ is used as a broad category. As mentioned in Chapter 3, the items of fabric used on the Holy Table and elsewhere in the temple are ‘vestments’. In weddings, for example, the church (via ‘altar vestments’ or ‘altar clothes’) and the bride both wear white, as do the clergy. All three are wearing vestments. In this way, it may be better to understand the word as it is used in the Orthodox context more along the lines of the French vêtement, with its broad reach, including the clothing items of everyday wear. While the word was reserved by most of my informants to the sacerdotal fabrics (on body and altar), clergy tended to imply a broader swath. As quoted in the Preface, Sayidna Boulos, interviewed on Mt Athos in 2011, expressly included within ‘vestments’ the t-shirts and trousers worn by the pilgrims standing about the monastery’s plaza. It is within this broad view of vestment that the chapter focuses on those of the priestly office. Vestments are not a unique category, only a particular function, for these vestments transform the priest into an embodied ikon of Christ. The chapter starts with a formal and symbolic analysis of the priestly vestments. This provides the context for the following process of vesture, and also serves to mark the functional distinction between Niyousha-Christina- as-ikon-of-Christ and the priest-as-embodied-ikon-of-Christ.
The priestly vesture This subsection outlines the formal and symbolic aspects of Orthodox priestly vesture in order to present the constitutive logic of the vestments and how they are perceived by parishioners. It is not concerned with the historical progression by which contemporary Orthodox vesture has developed –see Chrysostomos (1981), Woodfin (2012), and West (2013) for this genealogy. Rather, the primary concern is what the vestments are materially and what they are understood to constitute (symbolically and ritually) within the parish of St Æthelwald’s. While much of this vesture has no formal continuity with that of first- temple Judaism, many of the images linked to the items of vesture draw from
118 Making heaven Old Testament imagery of the Jewish priesthood. This priestly imagery is married to Eastern Roman (Byzantine) imperial imagery, due to the fact that Orthodox Christianity, as the imperial religion, developed its liturgical aesthetics during this time (Chrysostomos 1981; West 2013). These two image sets (the priestly and the kingly) are important, as they constitute central aspects of who Christ is understood to be. While Christ is understood to be various things (such as the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Saviour, etc.), the priestly and kingly qualities of his person are particularly important within the liturgical worship of Orthodox Christianity. Within the temple-as-ikon, Christ as king rules everything. In most temples, the ikon of Christ chosen for the ikonostasis is that of the ‘Pantokrator’, or Ruler of All. This is an image of Christ with authority. Paired with this authority is the image of priesthood; Christ, St Paul wrote, is ‘a great high priest’ who ascended into heaven, and is therefore a source of ‘confidence’.1 When the priest is said to become the embodied ikon of Christ, then, it is these functions of Christ’s role which are specifically referenced. In the distinction between the ikonicity of Niyousha-Christina and that of the priest, then, the former has a greater focus on who Christ is and the latter on what Christ does as priest-king. As the priest vests for the Liturgy, he prepares himself to do a specific act (the consecration of the Eucharist and feeding of the people), which participates in the priestly action of Christ. Different services require different arrangements of vesture. A simple blessing, of food for example, requires none; but any formalised service requires at least a stole (epitrachelion). What are described here are the vestments required for the Divine Liturgy as practised in the Antiochian parish of St Æthelwald’s. This includes eight elements: the rason (pl. rasa), the sticharion, the epitrachelion, the epimanikion (pl. epimanikia), the zone, the epigonation, the phelonion, and a pectoral cross (usually a crucifix). Every item but the last is made of fabric; the pectoral crucifix, which is a crucifix of roughly 5 inches in length hung on a rather chunky necklace, is usually metal, though some can be found of wood or various precious and semi-precious stones. The rasa are, usually black, robes, similar to the cassocks of the Roman Catholic Church. In Antiochian practice, the priest usually has two, an inner rason (esorason) and an outer rason (exorason, or jibbeh). The esorason is usually a fitted tunic, with a mandarin collar and long fitted sleeves, that falls to about the ankle –though the style of cut and how fitted it is vary widely. The colours of esorasa are also widely variable, and while most wear black, many colours are seen among married clergy. The exorason is a loose, flowing tunic, latched at the collar but open in the front with long baggy sleeves; it often falls to floor-length. I have never seen an exorason that was not black, but was told there was no reason it would need to be black. With both rasa, the black colour is ideal, as the taking on of the rasa represents a death to 1 Hebrews Ch4.
Becoming an ikon 119
Figure 7.1 Esorason (left half) and exorason (right half).
the self. Additionally, the priesthood is specifically spoken of as a marriage to the Holy Table, and so the black robes are seen as funeral garments and wedding garments at the same time. The remaining elements of vesture are usually of matching colour and are the items which, with the metal crucifix, are used to transform the body of the priest into an embodied ikon of Christ. Liturgical vestments come in a wide range of colours and textiles. It is most common to see brocades used; however, velvet and plain cotton or linen are also common –largely contingent on the climate and the priest’s personal preference. Fr Theophan’s vestments are each of silk brocade with metal threads inter-woven. Between the natural luminescence of the silk and the refracting qualities of the metallic thread, vestments catch and play with light, giving a shimmering quality. According to the Orthodox canons, only two colours are required (West 2013): a dark set and a light set. Fr Theophan uses a scarlet set as his ‘dark’ vestments and the white set given him upon his ordination as his ‘light’ set. This dualism, between dark and light, in vestments is matched to the liturgical cycle of fasts and feasts, respectively. Added onto this dualism can be any range of colours associated with various feasts. Toward the end of 2012, Fr Theophan began to arrange for a set of blue vestments to be worn on feasts of the Theotokos; otherwise, however, he simply switched between his dark and light sets. The first piece of liturgical vestment is the sticharion. Sticharia are tunics worn by each person serving in the Altar (server, subdeacon, deacon, priest);
120 Making heaven
Figure 7.2 Sticharion.
the reader, standing outside the Altar with the choir, also vests in a sticharion.2 In the case of the other members of the clergy and servers, sticharia are often made of ornate brocade, as they are the outermost piece of vesture, save a stole used by the subdeacon and deacon. In the case of the priest, however, the sticharion is an inner garment usually made of cotton or linen, much like an alb in Western Christian vesture. It, like the rason, represents the priest’s death-to-self; however, here the paired image is that of Baptism, not marriage.3 The otherwise plain tunic usually has decoration along the bottom, typically a stripe or two of a metal-lace ribbon (galloon) and an edging of bullion fringe,4 which is characterised by corded tassels, usually no longer than 2 inches long, running along the entire circumference of the garment’s hem. These little tassels, and those seen on other vestments such as the epitrachelion, are seen to represent ‘the people’. In this way, the priest symbolically carries the people on his own person. 2 This is quite variable in wider Orthodoxy, with some ordained readers opting simply for a rason. It is good to remember that the particular local aesthetics of worship can be wildly diverse across global Orthodoxy. See Carroll (2017c) for further elaboration on this point. 3 Though, it should be pointed out, Baptism and marriage are also linked, as both are a sacramental union. Here, however, the link between death and Baptism is stronger; in the case of the rasa, the link between death and marriage is stronger. 4 Galloon and bullion fringe are technical terms for these specific sorts of textile. A few clerical informants knew these terms; however, most informants simply called them ‘trim’, ‘the tinselly edge’, and ‘that fringy bit about the bottom’. For the sake of clarity, I use the tailoring terminology rather than the ethnographic ones.
Becoming an ikon 121
Figure 7.3 The epitrachelion (left), zone (top right), epimanikia open and tied as it would be about a wrist (middle right), and epigonation.
The cuffs of the sticharion are undecorated; they do, however, have a cord that is used to tie the sleeve taut against the forearm. This is primarily a practical issue, so that loose sleeves do not fall into the Eucharist. This, however, highlights the third influence in the design of the liturgical vestments. Along with the symbolic links to Old Testament Judaism and historical links to East Roman imperial dress, there is the practical necessity that the priest, once vested, must be able to perform the Liturgy. While the exorason is worn during the services of Vespers, the Eucharistic nature of the Liturgy requires that any loose fabric is bound tight about the body. Also for practical purposes, sticharia typically have openings at the sides, large enough for the priest’s hand to access pockets within the esorason. The second item of vesture is the epitrachelion, meaning ‘over the throat’. This yoke-shaped stole hangs from the neck down the front of the priest, roughly to the knees. The stole has seven crosses, equally spaced up and around the upside-down U-shaped garment, such that one rests upon the nape of the priest’s neck and the other six lie in three neat pairs down his front. The two sides (the arms of the U) are held together with a series of buttons, giving the yoke-like appearance of the vestment. Like the sticharion, the epitrachelion is edged with galloon, and along the bottom hem it is adorned with bullion trim –again representative of the people. The back of the stole is lined, in most cases with a satin of the same colour as that of the brocade from which it is made. This vestment is the most basic, in that it is the one required for
122 Making heaven the most activities. A priest must wear the epitrachelion to perform the rites of absolution (forgiving the penitent for sin) or to commune within the Altar (to partake of the Eucharist) even if he is not serving the Liturgy (without the epitrachelion he may partake of the Eucharist outside the Altar, with the people). The symbolic implication of the epitrachelion is that of a yoke, upon which is carried ‘the people’ (represented by the fringe), for whom he as a priest performs the Liturgy. The prayers which the priest recites while putting on the epitrachelion also link this fringe to those on the vestments of the Jewish high priest Aaron. As such, even though the formal quality of the garment is quite distinct, the epitrachelion is understood to represent continuity with Old Testament priesthood, specifically in terms of how the priest offers the sacrifice on behalf of the people of God. The third item is the zone, or belt. The zone is, like the epitrachelion, edged with galloon and lined with satin. It has three crosses spaced out along its length. It is shaped as a broad swath, which tapers at the ends and is tied in place with ribbon. As a belt, it does not hold anything up, but it does go over the epitrachelion and holds it flush against the priest’s torso. The zone is typically laced through the pocket slits of the sticharion, such that while it rests over the top (outside) of the epitrachelion, it is underneath (inside) the back of the sticharion. Being girded about the midsection of the priest, roughly over the belly, it is seen to represent the reining in of the passions, which, following Platonic biology, are understood to be seated in the bowels. The prayers recited while putting on the zone link it to images of being girded with power and being made blameless. The forth item is the cuffs, or epimanikia (sg. epimanikion, lit. ‘over the wrist’). Most sets of epimanikia are identical pairs, each with a cross in the centre and galloon trim around the edge, backed with satin lining.5 The sides of the epimanikia each have a series of D-rings and a cord, such that the priest may tighten the cuff taut, over the cuff of the sticharion, upon his forearm. The right cuff is linked to imagery concerning God’s power, drawing on Old Testament understandings of the right hand being that of power. The left cuff is linked to images of creation and God’s role in making all things, including the priest. The priest must be vested in at least the aforementioned vestments up to the cuffs if he is to begin the preparation of the elements for the Eucharist. The fifth item of vesture is the epigonation, meaning ‘over the knee’. This diamond-shaped ornament is roughly two handbreadths wide, and has tassels dangling from three of its corners. From the fourth corner, the top, is strung a ribbon, which is used to hang it from the priest’s torso. The ribbon runs over the left shoulder, across the front and back of the body, and the epigonation is then tucked under the zone, such that the diamond hangs over the right thigh 5 Some, particularly elaborate and festive, epimanikia –especially those used by bishops –often have two parts of an ikon spread across the right and left pieces; for example, the Angel Gabriel on one and Mary receiving the Annunciation on the other, or St Peter and St Paul, one on each.
Becoming an ikon 123 of the priest. The fabric diamond is stretched over a stiff backing and lined with satin, such that its shape is held firm, hanging loose, but not limp at the priest’s side. This item is spoken of as a ‘dignity’ (AOCANA 2010:232), and it is given to priests by their bishop for a variety of reasons across Orthodox Christianity (Chrysostomos 1981:53; West 2013:73; Woodfin 2012:18). In Antiochian practice, it is given to priests as a sign of permission to perform the mystery of Confession (i.e. absolve sins). So, while the epitrachelion must also be worn to perform the rite, the priest is not entitled to do so, in Antiochian practice, unless the ‘dignity’ of the epigonation has been conferred upon him. Many priests interviewed during fieldwork commented on the taxing nature of hearing confession, and many laity attested to feeling the great (often times ‘freeing’) effect of confession when done with a ‘good’ or ‘worthy’ priest –or, conversely, the devastating effect when confession was made to an ‘unworthy’ priest.6 It is left up to the diocesan bishop as to when, if ever, to grant this dignity upon a priest. Because of the gravity of hearing confession, which accompanies the dignity of wearing the epigonation, it is often only given to older men at ordination, or to younger men after they have proved themselves pastorally for some years as priests. Another name for the epigonation is ‘enchirion’ (derived from the Greek for ‘knife’) (Chrysostomos 1981:57; cf Thierry 1966; and Woodfin 2012:17ff, where it appears as ‘encheirion’). This ornate cloth dagger is understood to have come into the ecclesiastical wardrobe from the Byzantine Imperial wardrobe by at least the 11th century (Chrysostomos 1981). In this way, the dignity of the epigonation is the dignity to wear, and thus wield, a dagger. It is to the priest who may wear this that the authority is given to ‘bind and loose’ sins.7 By receiving the epigonation at his ordination, Fr Theophan was given the authority to act in the likeness of Christ and forgive and free the penitent of their sins. The sixth item of vestment is the phelonion, a large cope, roughly conical in shape. When worn, the front of the phelonion falls roughly mid-torso, such that it comes to cover the zone. At the back, it extends much lower, and depending on the cut of the garment, may grace the floor. The continuous hem slopes from the front to the back, and is edged with galloon. Upon the back, situated to rest between the shoulder blades of the priest, is usually a cross, though some have an ikon embroidered or mounted onto the fabric. The phelonion is spoken of in connection with clothes of ‘righteousness’ and is likened to the garment that Christ wore when he was taken to his death. The Gospel of John (19.23) speaks of the soldiers overseeing Christ’s crucifixion casting lots for his tunic, as it was ‘seamless’. What this means, exactly, is both 6 In Greek, ‘worthy’ is ‘axios’ –this is what the congregation cry out during the ordination of a man to a rank of the priesthood, acclaiming that he is worthy of the office. To cry ‘anaxios’, literally ‘he is unworthy’, is a very strong claim, one that, I was told, would result in an ecclesiastical court to investigate the accusation implied in ‘anaxios’. 7 This language, taken from Matthew 18:18, is also used in the prayers of absolution.
124 Making heaven
Figure 7.4 Phelonion.
debated by scholars and of little consequence to practice. What it means to those with whom I spoke is that it is beautiful, a piece of good-quality craftsmanship, and (like the man who wore it) without blemish. The phelonion is not literally a garment without seam, but it is usually sewn to hide any seam. Whereas sticharia often have galloon running the length of the side seams, phelonia typically have galloon only around the neck (top of the conic shape) and hem (bottom of the conic shape) such that it can be ‘one piece from top to bottom’, as John describes Christ’s garment. The other important symbolic quality of the phelonion as likened to Christ’s garment comes out during the Great Entrance, which is described in the Prologue. In Antiochian practice, it is not uncommon to see the practice wherein the devotee venerates the hem of the priest’s phelonion. This practice is taken from a Gospel account (seen in Matthew 9 and Mark 5) wherein a woman ‘with an issue of blood’ lasting twelve years pushes forward in a crowd in order to touch Christ’s hem and thereby be healed. As such, the phelonion is likened to the garment of Christ in a highly potent manner, identified very closely with his body as a conduit of grace and healing. The seventh item of vestment is the pectoral cross. While not an item of fabric, it is expressly spoken of as a vestment, and, like the epigonation, is also given as a ‘dignity’. However, while the epigonation is used in Antiochian
Becoming an ikon 125
Figure 7.5 Crucifix of pectoral cross (necklace).
practice to confer the sacramental authority to recite the prayers of absolution, the pectoral cross is conferred in recognition of the priest’s lived example of ‘taking up his cross’ –that is, participating in the kenotic ministry of Christ’s self-denial. The pectoral cross is worn over the phelonion, usually with the crucifix coming to rest atop the solar plexus. Each of these items has strong symbolic correlations to Christ. Each is linked to at least one image of Christ, and several (e.g. the phelonion) are linked to a series of cascading images (Christ as healer, Christ crucified, Christ as perfect). In line with the analytical framework outlined earlier concerning the ‘figural excess’ of images and the anaphoric chains along which these excesses may be linked, it can be seen here that these items of fabric form anchors upon which the anaphoric chains may be grounded. When the devotee goes to venerate the hem of the priest, for example, the entire chain of priest-as- Christ-as-perfect-healer-saviour-going-to-the-cross may, literally and materially, be ‘grasped’. Christ, and his kingdom in heaven, is ‘at hand’. The practice of placing these highly symbolic items of fabric on the body allows the priest to stand and offer the Orthodox Liturgy. There is a point in the Liturgy, as it begins to reach the ritual climax, when the priest, making a low bow before the Holy Table, proclaims: Look upon me, your sinful and unprofitable servant, and purify my soul and heart from an evil conscience. By the power of your Holy Spirit enable me, clothed with the grace of the priesthood, to stand at this your Holy Table and celebrate the mystery of your holy and most pure Body and your precious Blood. (Lash 2011:37, emphasis added)
126 Making heaven
Figure 7.6 The assembled vestments of an Orthodox priest.
These words are proclaimed as the priest prepares the Holy Table to receive the bread, wine, and water, which will be made into the Body and Blood of Christ; Fr Theophan says these words within a context of admitting his own unworthiness and insufficiency to carry out the ritual task that he is set upon performing. For all the certainty with which he claims to be unable to do what he is about to do, he nonetheless does it. The fulcrum upon which his insufficiency becomes sufficient is that he is ‘clothed with the grace of the priesthood’. At first read, one might be tempted to interpret this statement by the priest as simply a metaphor. If it is a metaphor, however, it is a powerful one, as it appears in multiple places within the liturgical practice of Orthodox Christians. Particularly in periods of penance, such as Great Lent, imagery of clothing abounds. Clothing becomes a highly salient trope in spaces wherein the religious mediation focuses on becoming something other than what one currently is. The frequency and saliency of clothing are also not just discursive. On each level of clerical hierarchy, and, as was shown in Chapter 5, right down to a newly baptised initiate, fabric is given and worn with specific symbolic value. What is particularly crucial to the argument developed here is that some items of fabric are required for
Becoming an ikon 127 certain spiritual action. As such, I take the idea of being ‘clothed in grace’ to be more than a metaphor, and examine what it means for an Orthodox Christian to get dressed, and thereby become more than they are.
Vesting When Fr Theophan arrives at St Æthelwald’s each Sunday morning, as discussed in Chapter 3, the edifice is not yet the temple. This transformation only happens when the antimension is placed on the Holy Table. By the time of the priest’s arrival, Chris, the churchwarden, has already begun to arrange the furniture, arranging the ikons and preparing what parts of the Altar he can. Into this still predominantly Anglican space, Fr Theophan enters, pulling a small wheeled suitcase behind him. He is dressed in his esorason and exorason, and through most of the year he also has a thick wool coat over them both. Under his esorason he wears black slacks and a (usually) blue dress shirt, the top of the collar of which is barely visible above the mandarin collar of the esorason. If the ikons are already in place, he pauses to venerate them; and likewise, if people are present, he pauses to greet them, giving them his blessing, or rather –as was discussed in Chapter 2 –‘The blessing of the Lord’, should they ask it of him. Pulling his bag behind him, he then steps up into the Anglican quire and up the steps to the Anglican altar. Here he takes off his coat and hangs it over one of the high-backed chairs (the one not, as seen in Chapter 3, used in the bema). He opens the suitcase and begins to pull out his vestments, placing them on the chairs Chris has arranged as the bema. Here he lays his phelonion, sticharion, epigonation, epimanikia, zone, and epitrachelion. After Fr Theophan has arranged his vestments and checked that the antimension is already in place on the Holy Table, he, still wearing his exorason, exits the Altar to start kairon. All deacons and priests who are to serve in a Liturgy say kairon, which are prayers of preparation said in front of the ikonostasis. They act as a means to prepare the clergy before God and the saints. This starts with a metania before the episcopal throne, though in St Æthelwald’s, as there is no cathedra,8 Fr Theophan makes this toward the bema, at the back of the Altar. He then makes three metanias in front of the 8 This was a change I saw happen within the period of my research. From September 2009, when I first made contact with St Æthelwald’s, up till the summer of 2010, one of the low-backed chairs used by the Anglican priests during a low mass was brought out from the quire where it is kept, to sit facing north across the solea, in front of the people. This was the cathedra. The change arose when a monastic priest who visited the parish in order to concelebrate with Fr Theophan suggested setting up three of the seats as a bema instead. This would allow him and Fr Theophan to sit in the two outer seats during the reading of the epistle. The server, who was instructed to rearrange the chairs accordingly, asked if he should then take the second high- backed chair out to be the cathedra (something which would require Fr Theophan to remove his coat and suitcase from it). The monk laughed, saying, ‘We don’t need a cathedra, if a bishop comes, he can get himself his own seat.’ From this period forward, the bema has been arranged
128 Making heaven Holy Doors (the opening in the ikonostasis between Christ and the Theotokos), saying ‘O God, be gracious unto me the sinner’ each time. He then continues, addressing the Trinity in supplication, then, after reciting the trisagion (lit. ‘thrice holy’) prayers, he supplicates Christ and the Theotokos. He then moves to face the ikon of Christ to the right (south) of the Holy Doors and venerates it, supplicating Christ for help and salvation. Fr Theophan then crosses over to the left (north) of the Holy Doors, in front of the ikon of the Theotokos, addressing her as ‘a fountain of tenderness’, asking her to help make the clergy worthy of compassion, and lastly he joins his voice with that of ‘Gabriel, chief captain of the bodiless powers’, who, in announcing the coming of Christ, told her to ‘Rejoice’. Crossing over to the south side again, he stands before St John the Forerunner, and asks him on behalf of the whole world for prayers for healing. Once again, he crosses to the north of the Doors, in front of the ikon of the patron of the parish, on the far side of the Theotokos, and prays the troparion, extolling the saint’s life. Returning to stand in front of the Doors, he asks the Lord to strengthen him for the task of serving as the priest, after which he closes the small service commemorating Christ, the Theotokos, and the various saints appointed for that region and point on the calendar. In performing the kairon prayers, then, it can be seen that Fr Theophan crosses back and forth, moving from ikon to ikon. He greets each person shown in the ikons, recounts or alludes to some of their work in the grand narrative of sacred history, and asks for their help in the work of sacred history which he is preparing to enact. At each ikon, he makes a down and up movement, characteristic of the movement down in repentance and up toward fellowship discussed in Chapter 2. This process by which Fr Theophan prepares to lead the Liturgy is structurally quite similar to the pattern of proskynesis enacted by Joanna. The priestly practice is more formalised, but both can be seen to establish the kind of intersubjective relationship with the community of saints in the temple. The practice undertaken by Fr Theophan, however, is not only the establishment of intersubjectivity with the saints through the material of the ikons. In the kairon prayers, one can also see a pattern of giving and receiving of accolade and blessing. As was shown in the substances of enduring efficacy in Chapter 6, blessing is a thing that is conferred on a person through various materials. The nature of ‘blessing’ in relation to material and immaterial will be addressed in the final chapter, as the ephemerality of fabric is examined in comparison to the properties of other substances. Blessing is, however, something that can pass with an object and is perceived to have both material and spiritual value. What emerges in the kairon prayers, and is seen more explicitly in the next subsection as the vesting process is examined, is a practice of antiphonal blessing –the subject blesses the object in order for the object to with a high-back chair and two low-back chairs on either side. No seat is arranged as a cathedra. This is the only parish I have ever seen that did not have a cathedra or some similar chair outside the Altar reserved for, and representative of, the ruling bishop.
Becoming an ikon 129 bless the subject. In the kairon prayers, those objects are ikons, and as such, it is the subject (saint) pictured therein which is said to return the blessing; in the vesting process, as Fr Theophan becomes an ikon, a relationship arises wherein he blesses the fabric items, which in turn bless him and render him an index and icon of God.
Becoming an ikon The vesting here described is done each Liturgy, and Fr Theophan does it at the front of the building, in front of the bema seat. As such, it is a highly visible process –something Fr Theophan does very purposefully. Whereas in many parishes, if they have a full ikonostasis, the vesting prayers are recited out of sight of the congregation, Fr Theophan makes it as visible as possible, almost theatrical. As he picks up each item, he turns toward the south, so that his back does not block the lines of sight from the congregation. In this way, anyone who is early (as he encourages catechumens to be) can see how he blesses each piece and wraps his body in each successive layer. Once he has finished the kairon prayers, Fr Theophan enters the Altar once again, and goes to vest in the items outlined earlier. First, he removes his exorason and drapes it carefully off to the side. He then lifts the folded sticharion, and holding it in his left hand, blesses it with his right, making the sign of the cross over it. He then kisses it, roughly in the centre of the cruciform he just outlined. Unfolding it, and gathering together the fabric from the hem to the neck along the back, he puts his head through, then one arm and then the other, letting the tunic’s length fall, covering his esorason. He takes the long strings that hang from each cuff and binds any loose fabric of the sleeve firm against his forearm. As he puts on the sticharion, he recites from memory a prayer9 that makes explicit the image of the sticharion as a ‘garment of salvation’ likened to wedding garments. Fr Theophan then takes the epitrachelion, blesses it, kisses it, and puts it on, reciting a prayer10 which speaks of the anointing ‘oil of myrrh’ upon the head of the priest running ‘down to the fringe’ of his vestments. Following the epitrachelion, the priest takes the zone and in like fashion blesses it with the sign of the cross and kisses it. He then puts it on, blessing God who, he says, girds him ‘with power’ and has ‘made [his] path blameless’.11 Here, the priest has already made a significant shift from what was spoken 9 My soul shall rejoice in the Lord, for he hath clothed me with the garment of salvation, and with the robe of gladness hath he encompassed me. As a bridegroom he hath set a crown upon me, and as a bride hath he adorned me with ornament, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen. (AOCANA 2010:231–232) 10 Blessed is God, who poureth out his grace upon his priests, as oil of myrrh upon the head, which runneth down upon the beard, upon the beard of Aaron, which runneth down to the fringe of his raiment, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen. (AOCANA 2010:232) 11 Blessed is God, who girdeth me with power and hath made my path blameless, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen. (AOCANA 2010:232)
130 Making heaven outside the Holy Doors in the kairon prayers. There, he identifies himself three times as ‘the sinner’ in need of cleansing and salvation. He seeks the help and intercession of Christ and the Theotokos, and seeks to be strengthened so that he might stand ‘without condemnation’ before God. Now, having been clothed ‘with the garment of salvation’ (sticharion), ‘anointed’ with oil (epitrachelion), and girded with power (zone), he is able to say that God ‘hath made my path blameless’. This new position as ‘blameless’ is hardly the same as that which Fr Theophan was in just moments before. With the vesting, however, he is becoming more than he is. Fr Theophan continues with the process, taking up the epimanikia. He first takes the right one, over which he, as with each item of fabric vesture, makes the sign of the cross, blessing it. While he does so, he speaks of God’s ‘right hand’ being ‘glorified in strength’;12 he then kisses it and pulls it on over his right wrist. As with the cuffs of the sticharion, he binds the drawstring taut about his forearm. He takes the left epimanikion and repeats the process of blessing, kissing, and putting it on his left forearm, though here he speaks of God’s hands having made him.13 With these cuffs, Fr Theophan addresses the Lord, but in an ambiguous way, which, particularly with the right cuff, may also be speaking of himself. By recounting to Christ what he has done with his right hand, while he is dressing his own right hand to continue the same work of Christ, the priest makes explicit his own cooperation in the past–future work of salvation. Dressing his left hand, he focuses on the serving aspect of his role as priest. Next, Fr Theophan takes up his epigonation, blesses and kisses it. As he does so, he tells the ‘Mighty One’ to ‘gird thy sword’ in comeliness and beauty.14 He threads his right arm and head through the ribbon, letting the top of the loop rest on his left shoulder, such that the diamond piece of fabric, symbolic of a knife, sits loosely against his right side. Taking up the last item of fabric to vest in, Fr Theophan blesses and kisses his phelonion. He then, with one swift motion while holding the front of the conical garment, swings it up around and over his head. As it comes down, he pulls it forward to situate it on his shoulders, and fastens the button and loop at the front of the phelonion’s collar. As he does, he speaks of the Lord’s priest ‘clothed with righteousness’.15 12 Thy right hand, O Lord, is glorified in strength; thy right hand, O Lord, hath shattered thine enemies, and in the multitude of thy glory hast thou crushed thine adversaries, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen. (AOCANA 2010:232) 13 Thy hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding and I will learn thy commandments, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen. (AOCANA 2010:232) 14 Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O Mighty One, in thy comeliness and thy beauty, and proceed prosperously, and be king because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall guide thee wondrously, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen. (AOCANA 2010:232–233; cf Psalm 44.3–4) 15 Thy priests, O Lord, shall be clothed with righteousness, and thy holy ones shall rejoice with joy, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen. (AOCANA 2010:233)
Becoming an ikon 131 Having taken onto himself each of the fabrics according to his rank of the priesthood, Fr Theophan speaks of what he now is, a priest ‘clothed in righteousness’. The transformation into an embodied ikon of Christ is fulfilled, and proceeding to the Anglican altar, where he has laid out his pectoral cross, he takes this up and kisses it. As he does so, he speaks of the larger pattern of life for which this particular action is a symbol, saying, ‘Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen’ (AOCANA 2010:233). This last item of the priest’s liturgical vestments is a visible signification of his own lived experience ‘taking up his cross’, that is, partaking in the kenotic humility of Christ’s crucifixion. Now fully vested, he turns toward a small basin of water and washes his hands. As he does so, he recites a prayer speaking of himself ‘in innocence’, such that he has ‘stood in uprightness’.16 The shift between how the priest constituted himself previously and how he does so here is considerable. There is a stark contrast between how Fr Theophan speaks of himself during the kairon prayers in front of the Holy Doors and how he speaks of himself midway through the vesting prayers, having girded himself with the zone. Already by that point he had moved from an abject penitent (‘the sinner’, repeated multiple times) to one whose path was ‘blameless’. Now, having finished vesting, he is ‘innocent’, and ‘upright’. The placement of the vestments, even over such a short period (the process takes about five minutes), radically changes the priest’s self-understanding of his position before his God. By dressing in fabric anchors of anaphoric chains, the priest is able to change his subjectivity from a sinner to a righteous priest. The question concerning the ‘heart’ of the priest is irrelevant in terms of the enactment of his ikonicity as Christ. By enrobing himself with the visible emblems of Christ’s priesthood, he becomes an index and icon of Christ, such that he is able to fill the role of Christ within the temple-as-ikon of the universe. Vested, therefore, for the act of the Liturgical passion (i.e. the Incarnation and sacrifice of Christ), Fr Theophan approaches the table of prothesis and prepares the bread, wine, and water that will, during the Liturgy, be transformed into the Eucharist. At this stage of the morning, Fr Theophan is prepared for the Liturgy. He is dressed in textile symbols, such that he is a visual representation of Christ’s priesthood. Taking onto himself specific items of fabric, each with successive images of Christ’s ministry and person, he has rendered himself an index and icon of Christ. With each item of fabric, he blesses it, and then puts it on 16 I will wash my hands in innocence and I will compass thine altar, O Lord, that I may hear the voice of thy praise and tell of all thy wondrous works. O Lord, I have loved the beauty of thy house, and the place where thy glory dwelleth. Destroy not my soul with the ungodly, nor my life with men of blood, in whose hands are iniquities; their right hand is full of bribes. But as for me, in my innocence have I walked; redeem me, O Lord, and have mercy on me. My foot hath stood in uprightness; in the congregation will I bless thee, O Lord. (AOCANA 2010:233)
132 Making heaven himself as a blessing. The repetition and layering evident in the process is striking, and is reminiscent of the multiplicity seen in Oceanic artefacts. Take, for example, the A’a, from Rurutu, which is constituted by miniature forms of itself. Gell calls it a ‘concentric idol’ and notes: What is particularly remarkable about the A’a is the explicit way in which this image of a ‘singular’ divinity represents divinity as an assemblage of relations between (literally) homunculi. In so doing, the A’a obviates the contrast between one and many, and also between inner and outer. The surface of this image consists of amalgamated replications of itself, or alternatively a succession of budding protuberances. Internally, the image consists of itself, replicated on a smaller scale, within its own interior cavity. (1998:139) Gell moves on from the A’a, comparing it to similar artefactual practices in ancient Greece and medieval Europe (ibid.:141), and in each case the fractal ‘self-similarity’ (ibid.:137; see also Hooper 2007) is seen to collapse the inside and outside, and the multiple into the one. It can be dangerous to make a comparison between the priest as an ikon and a carved Polynesian idol. Much blood and ink has been spilled by Orthodox Christians defending the distinction between worshipping materials and worshipping with materials. The Iconoclastic Era is a period of history that, as is discussed in Chapter 1, is still held within communal memory, as part of the expanded present. But the comparison to the A’a is helpful, as it demonstrates the constitutive power of multiplication of the same motif. Each piece of vestment is itself a representation of Christ’s priestly ministry. And while, as was shown in Chapter 6, each Orthodox Christian is understood to be an ikon of Christ, the cumulative quality of the vestigial representations of Christ transforms the priest into a fractal and concentric ikon of Christ –capable, then, of being Christ for the congregation.
The items and substances such as water, oil, incense, ikons, the Eucharist, the baptismal garment, and the priestly vestments all enter into action with the human subjects in the process of making Niyousha into the Orthodox Christian Niyousha-Christina. This material culture is continually engaged with, and the chapter outlined a few key substances and how these are returned to repeatedly, in order to nourish the body and soul in the continual process of ‘becoming Orthodox’. This repeated engagement with holy things in Chapter 6 should also be seen in the context of the circles developed in Chapters 2 and 3. The weekly practice of coming to the temple, exemplified in Chapter 2 by Joanna, likewise engages a number of material and immaterial items in an ongoing process of becoming Orthodox. This present chapter continues this line of enquiry, paralleling what is shown in Chapters 3 and 4 concerning the role of fabric in the transformations of place. This chapter pursues an analysis of how various materials cooperate with the person in order to facilitate certain changes (‘becoming’) in the person. This chapter develops an exploration of the subject/self. In Part II, the role of ikonicity was discussed in order to explain some of the cosmological implications of the personal transformations that Orthodox practitioners understand to be occurring during processes such as Baptism. The previous chapter, by examining the liturgical uses of textile and its role in transforming the person of the priest, sets the stage for this chapter’s argument concerning the nature of the subject as a permeable and processual being. The relationship of ikonicity and textility in and around the person is then developed further in Chapter 9, as the book closes, drawing together the transformative qualities of fabric around place and people in order to articulate the ways in which Orthodox Christians engage fabric as a necessary part of becoming Orthodox and making heaven. This chapter starts with discussion concerning the person. It pulls together a number of strands of anthropological thought concerning the subject, and particularly subject formation as it relates to material culture and the formation of an analytical model for understanding the creative processes of art- like subjects. Following this, the chapter looks closely at the ritual process by which the priest becomes an ‘embodied ikon of Christ’. Chapter 6 highlighted
134 Making heaven how much of the material culture with which the Orthodox subject engages has an enduring efficacy, in that the blessing upon the person which it is understood to confer does not diminish, yet needs constant renewal. This chapter unpacks the ethnography given in the previous chapter, examining the positional efficacy of fabric, exploring how the shifting nature of fabric engages with a permeable and processual person, allowing the performance of what I call a modal person. In order to accomplish this, I make recourse to two distinct sets of literature quite distant from the ethnographic subject. This is a somewhat indulgent choice, but one I think important because it makes explicit an analytical model I find useful to think with, and because it helps establish what the person is as a material thing –specifically in terms of its properties and affordances. My recourse to Melanesianist Anthropology as a point of departure for a study of Orthodox Christian persons will seem strange. However, as Gell points out concerning Strathern’s Gender of the Gift, the Melanesia described is not a real place, but rather, an extended thought experiment (1999:32). As this book emerges from a Gellian Anthropology of Art, applying it to an understanding of personhood as an art-like index, I think it important to engage with the theories of personhood out of which Gell’s theory of art emerged. For similar reasons, I likewise think it important to address the impact of Foucauldian notions of the self –not so much in their own right, but as they have influenced, and especially as their critiques have influenced, discussions in the Anthropology of Religion and Ethics concerned with materials. Each set of influences is discussed now, in turn.
The person Alfred Gell, in the final chapter of Art and Agency (1998), draws from a number of Melanesian sources in order to argue for his idea of the ‘extended mind’. He draws from Küchler’s (1992) work on the malanggan funerary statues (Gell 1998:223ff), Strathern’s (1988) work on dividuals (Gell 1998:222, 1999), and Wagner’s (1991) work on fractal bodies (Gell 1998:253). Each of these Melanesian understandings of human particularity is an idea of multiplicity and distribution. Küchler (1992, 2002) demonstrates that for New Irelanders, the funerary statue acts as a body (‘skin’) in order to contain the life (‘moisture’) of the dead. One deceased person may have more than one malanggan statue, and the coalescing of the deceased’s life in the objects facilitates a visual mnemonic for individual qualities, such as proprietary rights and titles, to be transferred to other individuals. Strathern (1988), also working with ideas of multiplicity and distribution in the New Guinea highlands, presents the Melanesian person as a social microcosm, which is produced as the composite locus of multiple relations. In Wagner’s (1991) work, also in New Ireland, he argues for a fractal relationship between the interior constitution of the person and the exterior relations of which that person is part. Wagner, like Strathern, suggests that Melanesian people are
Ikonicity 135 not aggregates of relations, but scalar participants within, and which contain that, wider relation. Drawing on these three ways of understanding multiplicity and containment or scalar participation, Gell likens the multiple person to the home. There is slippage here, in Gell’s writing, between the person and the body. He legitimises the slippage by troubling the distinction between the inside and the outside (1998:222; see also Gell 1999:33). For Gell, the issue of distribution and containment is such that the skin (already the outside of the body’s inside) externalises the mind (1998:ch8, 1993), just as distributed objects within an artist’s œuvre are also said to do (1998:232ff). The slippage between inside and outside is highly productive for Gell, particularly when taken in the context of the body’s relationship to the built environment. Gell follows Carsten and Hugh-Jones’ (1995) work, presenting houses, like bodies, as collectives (as places of coalesced relations), having scalar similitude (the house is a body for the body) and internal organs/parts (Gell 1998:252). Once Gell positions the person as multiple and distributed in and beyond the body, and the house as the body of the multiple, he is able to demonstrate that each Maori meetinghouse is built looking both forward, anticipating future political triumph, and backward, as the house is a concretisation of the ancestors (ibid.:256). Here Gell likens the process to the continual creative invention that Wagner (1981) discussed in his Invention of Culture. Like each act of the invention of the self, Gell sees the artistic practice of objectification (wherein the artist makes external the mind [1998:236]) to take place within a wider context of influences. For Gell, these influences are the protentions and retentions of future and past indices –a framework he draws from Husserl’s (1991) phenomenology of time. For Wagner, these influences are the controlling and implicit contexts (in later work glossed as macro-and microcosmic contexts, respectively [1986b]) in which any given invention takes place (1981). While on the surface Gell and Wagner appear to diverge greatly here, they are actually quite similar. The difference lies in that Gell is purposefully avoiding symbolism and Wagner dwells primarily in that field. As pointed out in the Introduction, Gell is adamant to discuss art as a social phenomenon. He is interested in seeing indices as being in relation with people. As such, he places cultural artefacts as items of the ‘evolving consciousness of a collectivity’ (1998:258) –a move similar to Bateson’s ‘immanent mind’ (1972) –which marks every thing, ultimately, as being social. In this way, Gell grounds the abstraction of mind, art, agency, and society in the concrete relational thinking of the human subject – remember, as was emphasised in the first chapter, that his analysis rests not on intention but on the abduction of intention. Wagner, for his part, situates the act of invention –the necessary act of a person or group to deploy a symbol in an arising context in reference to previous symbolic use –between the poles of the microcosmic implicit context and the macrocosmic controlling context (1981:45, 1986b:25). As such, Wagner places the person within a cultural dialectic, constantly navigating between the particular situation in which ‘he’ (Wagner uses the male pronoun and ‘man’ much in the same way as
136 Making heaven my informants speak of Christ being ‘fully Man’) lives and the set of symbols and tropes provided within his cultural universe. Even while arguing that culture is illusory (1981:156), and suggesting that escape from the dialectic is possible (Nietzsche, he says, ‘learned to create the world without inventing the self’ [ibid.:85]), he holds that the process of invention is fundamental to the ‘phenomenon of man[kind]’. Comparing the two, it can be said that Gell’s system and Wagner’s system are quite similar: Gell giving precedence to the inferential proclivity of the person, resulting in relational affect, and Wagner giving precedence to the person’s creative deployment of symbols within the framework of inferential effect. Both are relevant to the argument laid forth here. In Chapter 6, for example, Niyousha-Christina’s choice of name was discussed within the context of placing herself as an index of Christ’s and St Christina’s prototypic likeness. In keeping ‘Niyousha’, however, she makes an innovation within the motivic context of Orthodox Christianity –previously discussed in terms of the ‘least difference’ principle. It is, however, equally fruitful to consider Niyousha-Christina’s course of action within the framework of Wagner’s notion of invention within the implicit (microcosmic) and controlling (macrocosmic) contexts of Niyousha’s conversion (implicit) into the Church (controlling). With such a focus on Niyousha’s creative deployment of symbols (in this case names), her invention of the self as Niyousha-Christina is a sort of ‘unmasking’ (Wagner 1981) of the controlling context of Church cultural norms; rather than simply take the name of a saint, she identifies this name- taking as a convention which itself must have come to be, and thus can be relativised and called into question. Wagner, in his explanation of unmasking, sees unmasking as falling into two categories: the first pertains to the normative aspects of life, ‘what people “do” ’(1981:56); the second concerns ‘the inverse mode of action’, including ‘ “creativity”, “art”, “research”, “ritual”, “play” ’ (ibid.). Unmasking what people ‘do’, he goes on to say, results in the invention appearing ‘faked’; unmasking ‘art’ or ‘ritual’ appears ‘forced’, or ‘too serious’ (ibid.:56–57). What, however, happens when people ‘do’ ‘art’? Fr Anthony Ugolnik, an Orthodox priest and professor of English Literature, in his analysis of Orthodox Christianity, writes that the Orthodox view of beauty and art is such that ‘each of us becomes a work of art’ is a ‘refrain throughout Orthodox sources’ (1989:188). In framing the trope of ‘becoming Orthodox’ in art-like language, I follow Ugolnik’s insight and thereby question Wagner’s division between ‘do’ and ‘art’. Consequentially, Wagner’s suggestion of how each category of unmasking operates may likewise be questioned. In the case of Niyousha-Christina’s unmasking of Orthodox controlling context concerning the taking of names, the kind of ‘forced’ and ‘faked’ invention was not met with her community feeling, as Wagner would anticipate, ‘vulnerable and becom[ing] defensive’ (1981:56). Instead, it was welcomed. Specifically, it was welcomed as conforming within a different controlling context of humility, or self-emptying. Niyousha’s justification for keeping her old name as part of her new name thus exposed
Ikonicity 137 the constructed nature of the normative cultural practice in an act of artful invention of herself via obviation of herself. Wagner identifies ‘obviation’ as ‘a sequence of dialectically related images that returns to, and negates, its own beginning point’ (1986a:211). In other words, by focusing on (i.e. ‘unmasking’) the controlling context, she obviates the implicit context (1981:45), thereby negating herself (1986a:211); by uncovering the system, she makes her own place –her own subjectivity –in the system seem falsified. However, such negation of the self must be read in the context of Christian ascetic practice, wherein each Orthodox Christian is instructed to deny themselves. The negation of the self, what Naletova (2010) and Naumescu (2010b, 2013) identify as ‘kenotic’ humility, is, within the artful invention in Orthodox Christianity, an obviation of the self that is an action like Christ’s own self-denial. As such, taking a Gellian emphasis on the abduction of social agencies within indices and taking a Wagnerian emphasis on the inventive use of symbols both illuminate the Orthodox movement of art-like becoming. Taken together, both Gell’s abduction of agency in the extended mind and Wagner’s invention of the self within the cultural dialectic offer models wherein a highly thoughtful (though not necessarily self-aware) person is actively engaged in the production of the self and the world through intimate relation and manipulation of the material world and what it means/does. Both, following the Melanesianist view outlined earlier, place the person as multiple and dispersed. In fact, the only alternative, Wagner argues, to viewing man as a social automaton ‘is to regard the individual’s own actions as the significant “input” in determining the self’ (1981:78, emphasis in original). In such a view, all actions (and by extension contemplations and inactions) become techniques in the invention of the self. In so doing, Wagner moves to a highly embodied and enacted view of the person. It is here, having a person as multiple, distributed, embodied, and enacted, that this chapter takes its departure; synthesising the language used, I call the Orthodox human person ‘permeable and processual’. These permeable and processual qualities are properties of the human person that shape the kind of social engagement (i.e. the affordances) they are capable of having. In addressing the understanding of the self from which Gell derives his theory concerning indexicality and agency, I have begun to outline Wagner’s view of how the self becomes, through invention. The next section turns to a different set of literature in order to investigate the matter of becoming. It draws primarily on two interpretations of Foucauldian notions of the technology of the self, but does so cognisant of the permeable and processual nature of the person –porous, multiple, distributed, embodied, enacted, and becoming.
Technologies of becoming This subsection outlines an emerging conversation concerning the subject formation of persons as it relates to things and symbols. In this way, it corroborates
138 Making heaven the previous section and adds a further level of complexity, exploring the social formation of persons. Working primarily from Gell and Wagner, the previous section outlined how the self/subject can be seen to sit within a network of either extended mind or the cultural dialectic (depending on whether one takes Gell’s emphasis on abduction or Wagner’s emphasis on invention, respectively). Here I move this discussion forward, looking particularly at the modes of becoming and the theoretical purchase such modes have on how to understand the human subject. While in the previous section material culture and symbols were kept abstract, this section addresses material objects in relation to subjects. This shift to focusing on the interaction between the subject and the material –in the process of becoming –prepares the way for the subsequent analysis of the ethnographic exploration of fabric (given in the previous chapter) in the role of Orthodox becoming. By positing ritual participation as a technique of the self, I draw on the work of Foucault. In his essay ‘The subject and power’, Foucault summarises his previous twenty years of work, unpacking his ‘three modes of objectification which transform human beings into subjects’ (1982:777). His framework offers a useful paradigm through which to trace the production of subjects, particularly in terms of the creation of distinctions, both internal and external, in the fashioning of the self. This book moves beyond Foucault, however, in that the technologies of the self that are discussed here are primarily taken within the material domain. His work on the ‘Technologies of the Self’ (1988) traces a genealogy of self-cultivation through classical and early Christian modes of reflection and self- observation. And, as Jean- Pierre Warnier observes, Foucault’s writings stress the importance of the material form of discipline (the prison, hospital, school, etc.), yet ‘material culture appears more as an exterior means used by the subjects than as a mediation embodied in the subject’ (2001:11). While practices such as letter-writing and confession are discussed (Foucault 1988), the focus of these practices of objectification is primarily on the making of a ‘self’ that is largely detached from the fact of its own materiality. This materiality is not solely that of the body, but of the wider material environment, too. Critiquing this, Warnier’s own work speaks of the ‘given materiality’ (2001:9) in which the subject performs its techniques of the body and self. Warnier sees in the work of Michel Foucault a collapse of the subject and the self, wherein the techniques of the self via creation of distinction leads to the subjectivation of the individual. As such, he moves to what he prefers to call ‘technology of the subject’ (2007, 2009a, b). Without being certain whether Foucault had access to Mauss’s (1973) text, Warnier interprets Foucault’s technologies of the self to include Mauss’s techniques of the body (2007:23). Warnier finds the body a troubling object, and, in dialogue with his fellows in the MàP group (Matière à Penser, Matter for Thought), obviates the problem ‘by shifting interest from the “body” to sensori-motor conducts’ (ibid.:24). This he justifies by saying, ‘The body is essentially characterised by the fact that it is in motion’ (ibid.) –which is a problematic axiom due to its
Ikonicity 139 ethnocentric presupposition. As is discussed more fully in the next chapter, this axiom is problematic, as, for the Orthodox Christian, the body is still a body, and still particle participant of a person, even when dead and thus no longer mobile. In fact, as is exemplified in the bodies (relics) of saints, persons may still act (in a Wagnerian sense ‘invent themselves’) while dead. As such, in thinking about techniques of selves and subjects, it is essential that the body be retained as a problematic ‘social fact’ of (most) persons. A huge benefit, however, of Warnier’s move to the technology of the subject is its emphasis on the materiality concomitant with (and in) the person. He explains: I have the desire to use the word ‘subject’ [sujet] instead of ‘self’ [d’individu].1 The fact is that the notion of the self, as developed in the human and social sciences over the past two centuries, has not acquired the constituent elements of ‘subject’ in a very subtle and attenuated way. To read many sociologists, one wonders if the ‘self’ has a body, libidinous investment, a suppressed consciousness, a material culture, and the kinaesthesis and sensorial apparatus fundamental to security. (2009a:152, author’s translation)2 In this way, Warnier brings to the foreground the constituent parts of human life: the stuff, the mechanics, the impulses, and, to phrase it a different way, the Lebenswelt of the self/subject. Within this book, a line somewhere between Wagner and Warnier is taken. Both ‘self’ and ‘subject’ language is used, not because there is a distinct difference between the two, but rather, because there appear to be useful connotative differences. The ‘self’ engages a heavier implication of the thinking and feeling subject; the ‘subject’ suggests a stronger focus on the corporal and enacted self. Being enacted, Warnier’s (2007) subject is a processual thing, like Wagner’s self (1981). For Wagner, this is the invention, within the ‘implicit context’, obviating or masking the ‘controlling context’ (ibid.:45). Placed in such contexts, the material and symbolic qualities of the environment become important. As is argued in Chapters 3 and 4, the built environment –both aspects manipulated by the community and aspects controlled by those external to the community –plays a significant role in the formation and experience of self in place. Warnier’s subject language emphasises the crucial aspect of the body within that formation. While 1 ‘D’individu’ is translated as ‘self’, rather than ‘individual’, following the language that Warnier uses in his English monograph The Pot-King (2007). As Bloch (2011) points out, the fact that the terms in the European languages do not line up neatly one-to-one is part of the difficulty with the topic. 2 The original French: Je tiens par ailleurs à l’usage du mot « sujet » plutôt qu’à celui « d’individu ». En effet, la notion d’individu, telle que les sciences de l’homme et de la société l’ont construite au cours des deux derniers siècles, ne recueille les éléments constitutifs du sujet que de manière très atténuée voire inessentielle. À lire de nombreux sociologues, on se demande si l’individu a un corps, des investissements libidinaux, un inconscient comme refoulé, une culture matérielle, des kinesthèses et un appareil sensorial à titre essentiel.
140 Making heaven some writings on Christianity highlight the predominance of the word (e.g. Bialecki and Hoenes del Pinal 2011; Harding 2000) and spirit (e.g. Kirsch 2014; Tassi 2013), it is crucial to keep in mind the body. Roy Rappaport, working from extensive comparative data in social, biological, and cognitive sciences, is right to point out that the entire person –body, too –is included in moments of ritual elation (1999:227ff). And, while many appraisals of religious action are inclined toward ecstasy (see, for example, Van de Port 2013), the notion of ‘outside the self’ takes an all-too-disembodied perspective on ritual actions –which are, as Rappaport describes, the product of very specific rhythmic, repetitive, and highly physical techniques (1999). Recognising the importance of the body, I follow the praxiological approach to subjectivity (Warnier 2001, 2009b), with a particular focus on the methods by which the Orthodox Christians with whom this book engages mimic the kenosis, or ‘self-emptying’, of Christ. As already argued, the self is also a subject of action, deployed in various ways in various symbolic actions in the invention of the self/subject. To adopt Warnier’s wording entirely, going solely with ‘subject’ would be to lose out on the objectification of the self that is part of the ‘counter-invention’ and accident of ‘motivation’ (Wagner 1981:40, 44ff). There is the potential for confusion here, as Gell, Wagner, and Foucault all use similar terminology, but do so with slight differences. Gell, in his use of ‘objectification’, identifies it as a process of ‘externalizing’ the mind (1998:236), emotion (ibid.:31), or social relations (ibid.:62) in an index. For Wagner, ‘The giving or taking of associations from one context to another is a consequence of this effect [of obviation], one that [he] propose[s]to call objectification’ (1981:44, emphasis in original). Wagner cites his use as being similar to that of Nancy Munn’s (1973) ‘objectivate’, a process whereby ‘Walbiri representation provides “objective correlates” for the “sensual formation of subjective experience” ’ (Munn 1973:221 in Wagner 1981:44). While Munn’s use fits well within the context and usage developed by Gell, Wagner’s usage moves in a direction more akin to the position held by Foucault. For his part, Foucault’s usage of ‘objectification’ is predicated on the making of distinction –between the self and others, within the self, and between others (1982). Whereas Gell’s use is concerned with the concretisation of abstract or immaterial things into objects (or better, indices), Foucault’s use concerns the making of objects –out of anything. Within the process of making a distinction is the making of an object and a subject. People, for Foucault (1977, 1982), are objects of other people’s (and their own) subjectivity. For his part, Wagner sees a ‘frustrating kind of objectification’ produced by attempting to ‘be ourselves’ through ‘conscious invention’, to ‘use’ one’s own ‘self’ (1981:81). This attempt is fundamentally the same as being an ‘entrepreneur’ of oneself (Rose 1996), and as such, the practising of a technique of the self is best seen within the framework of inventing the self, a process of objectification just as much as subjectification. For our purposes here, Gellian objectification will be followed, calling the concretisation of the prototypic relations into the art index (similar to
Ikonicity 141 Foucault’s objectification of the self) as the production of an indexical art- like subject. This movement away from Foucault, even while using the ideas of techniques of the self, is done following Warnier’s (2007:23) observation that Foucault’s subjects are such because of self-division, not because of achievement. In the Orthodox context, there is a strong emphasis on achievement –or more aptly called ‘becoming’ –often played out as forms of kenosis, as seen in the case of Niyousha-Christina’s self-obviation. The movement beyond Foucault to the larger material context of the self/ subject, seen earlier in Warnier’s work, and the movement to becoming is also seen in James Faubion’s (2011) work on ethics, wherein his discussion of the ‘self making’, or autopoiesis, of a moral subject includes a broad range of details, all part of the constitution of the individual human person. In his description of the Portuguese noble Fernando José Mascarenhas, Faubion outlines how Mascarenhas comes to fill, and exceed, the moral subject position of Portuguese nobility. The process of autopoiesis incorporates himself, his family, the people of Lisbon, the palace he inherited at birth –the list goes on. Faubion explicitly places the subject in a nexus of both people and things, a nexus diachronic and synchronic. Faubion’s examination at the level of the emplaced subject is not entirely unlike Warnier’s ‘given materiality’. Both address objects, forms, and occurrences in the landscape as relata within the subject’s course of action and formation. However, Faubion’s approach draws a much stronger correlation between the material context and the subject-hood of the subject. Mascarenhas’ palace, his family, and the people of Lisbon are obviously entangled within the ethical person of Mascarenhas, much as Carsten and Hugh-Jones (1995) demonstrate the body and the home to be. Warnier, by contrast, even while asserting that ‘it is through motricity and the experience of the senses, that the [individual’s] subjectivity can be altered’, such that ‘[t]echniques of the body in a given materiality are thus in fact techniques of the self’ (2001:10), has very little to say about the formation of the self/subject. The given materiality of, to use Warnier’s example, a basketball player never appears to enter into an intersubjective relationship with, and thus help the formation of, the sportsman. By contrast, Faubion allows material aspects of the subject’s lived world (e.g. health issues, sexuality) to have a formative impact on the self (2011:122ff). Mascarenhas identifies distinctions (‘in my body I feel homosexual and in my mind heterosexual’ [in Faubion 2011:123]) that could be read as classic forms of Foucauldian objectification, but Faubion’s use of the examples within a framework of self making, such that the ethical subject works to fill and exceed ethical categories, goes beyond Foucault, demonstrating how things work within the intersubjective formation of the person as permeable and processual. The things and people, both tangible and intangible, Faubion describes are shown to be very much central to the processual development of the subject/self. On the other hand, while Faubion’s approach highlights the means by which things and persons external to the subject affect the development of the subject,
142 Making heaven Warnier more effectively demonstrates the relational aspect between the materiality of the ‘given materiality’ and the materiality and cognition of the subject. For example, Chapters 5 and 6, while arguing for a distinction between the kinds of materials used in transformation, map an extended network of Niyousha, her kin (both blood and ritual), the material (London street in winter) and liturgical (baptismal rite in the lead-up to Great Lent) environment, and social (fellow congregants, the clergy, etc.). These people and things have an affective impact upon the subject formation of Niyousha-Christina. Both Faubion’s emphasis on the formation and Warnier’s emphasis on the materiality are necessary aspects of the development of persons, and as such, this chapter will hold both in view. As will be argued later, material qualities indexical to things have a performative impact on the development of human persons. The properties and affordances of the person, being permeable and processual, come into synergistic co-action with these material indexicalities in shaping how the subject/ self is formed. Such indexicalities become deployed within the invention of the self; they are all symbols within the controlling and implicit contexts. The set of all relata (person and thing, object and substance, tangible and intangible) with which the subject relates will be called the material ecology. To summarise this chapter so far, I draw upon theoretical work in Melanesianist and Foucauldian traditions, bringing these influences together in order to posit a processual coming into being of Orthodox persons. These persons are permeable, having only fluid divisions between parts, both internal and external, such that all subjects may be said to be intersubjective subjects, through both internal recursion and external interaction. The next section examines the permeability and processuality of becoming in the Orthodox Christian context by looking in detail at the ritual process by which the priest transforms himself into an ikon of Christ. The similarity between the process laid out here and the process by which Niyousha-Christina became, likewise, an ikon of Christ is striking. Both transformations use visual and material symbols in order to articulate an understanding about the character of the subject/self. The ikonicity of the priest-as-Christ, however, is a matter of degrees beyond that of Niyousha-Christina-as-Christ. In other words, while both are like Christ, and are made as images of Christ, the priest is fashioned in the likeness of Christ to a great degree –a degree that makes materially manifest Christ’s role as High Priest. I now shift to examine the ikonicity of this highly sacred but modal embodiment of priest-as-Christ in order to demonstrate the nature of the positional efficacy of fabric as it relates to the nature of the Orthodox person. The subsequent chapter follows from this, synthesising the transformations of place, laity, and clergy in order to identify the role of fabric within Orthodox Christian worship.
Material indexicality and ikonicity The previous chapter provides the ethnographic account of the process by which Fr Theophan vests and thereby becomes an ikon of Christ. It concluded
Ikonicity 143 by proposing the analysis of Fr Theophan as a fractal and multiple, concentric ikon of Christ. Ikonicity, having qualities of both icon and index, is understood by parishioners to mean that while Fr Theophan is always a representative of Christ, he becomes Christ in a potent way, both making present and representing Christ, when he is vested; taken together, this will be written as (re)presenting. Once he is vested, he is able to offer the Liturgy on behalf of the congregation –a position, as Gell observes (1998:150), wherein the priest is an index of Christ. The vesting, however, also presents the priest, formally, as being in the likeness (iconic, factual similarity) of Christ. The accumulation of motivic symbols, wherein each vestment is perceived to have an imputed similitude to part of Christ’s priestly ministry, covers the body of the priest, transforming him into the visual likeness of Christ-as-priest. This section unpacks the material negotiations that occur in the aforementioned account. The first subsection examines the impact of materials of enduring versus positional efficacy, demonstrating how the same symbolic motifs operate upon the body in different ways depending on the materials out of which they are made. The following subsection addresses the topic of fractal multiplicity as it moves off the motivic, and into the intersubjective, when multiple embodied ikons of Christ are present at once. This brings back to the fore issues of multiplicity and intersubjectivity. Finally, a contrast is drawn between the Orthodox priesthood as seen here and the priesthood as it is understood in Western Christian traditions. This contrast serves to bring out the degree to which fabric plays an active role in the ritual lives of Orthodox Christians. It also demonstrates the quality of Orthodox persons as permeable, and in this case, modal, such that the Orthodox priest shifts, even as fabric does, between operational modes of ritual efficaciousness contingent on the position of fabric.
Materiality and ikonicity The previous chapter outlines the items of vesture and the process of priestly vesting when there is no bishop. When there is a bishop, the priest brings the vestments, stacked together, to gain the bishop’s blessing (given with the sign of the cross), and it is then with this blessing that the priest proceeds to vest as outlined in the previous chapter. In much the same way, the subdeacon, reader, and servers bring their vestments to the priest to bless before vesting. Before moving into the next subsection, which addresses the issues of multiplicity in priestly ikonicity, it is important to note one subtle difference between the pectoral cross and the other items of priestly vesture. A careful reader may have noticed that Fr Theophan did not bless the pectoral cross before kissing it and placing it on his body. While Fr Theophan blesses and kisses each item of fabric, the pectoral cross is simply kissed and put on. This difference begs the question: Why? This procedural abnormality was not a mistake on the priest’s part, but rather, a consequence of the material object in question. Fabric, in each case, requires a blessing. The metal of the
144 Making heaven cross, however, does not. It has been blessed once, usually by being placed on the Holy Table for the duration of a Liturgy –much as ikons are blessed – and from thenceforth is an object of blessing. The cross is, in fact, always an object of blessing, but there is still the question of the adherence to and within the material. As noted in the formal description of the vestments, all of the fabric items of vesture that Fr Theophan robes himself in have crosses on them3 –it is over one of these crosses that the priest makes his own sign of the cross. Sticharia have a cross situated in the centre of the back, resting between the shoulder blades. Epitrachelia have a small cross situated over the nape of the neck, as well as the six running down the front of the stole. The zone likewise has three crosses, one situated at the centre, to be placed over the belly, and one on each end. Epimanikia similarly place a cross over the top of each wrist. Epigonatia, likewise, are not only loosely cross-shaped, but are also often decorated with the emblem. Phelonia, too, like the sticharia, place a cross (or sometimes a small ikon) upon the back of the priest, between the shoulder blades. In this way, the priest is, as a concentric ikon, literally covered in crosses; but each of item of vesture, if fabric, must be blessed each time it is put on. When asked why he does not bless the pectoral cross when he blesses every other item of his vestments, Fr Theophan explains that the pectoral cross remains a blessed object, whereas the fabric of the cloth vestments requires his blessing for each use. It is not that the fabric loses its sacrality; there are prohibitions against discarding the scraps of vesture, as they are sacred objects.4 Rather, the efficacy of the objects in question functions differently. The previous chapter argues for viewing the majority of Orthodox material objects and substances as having enduring efficacy. Here, it is seen that the metal and wood of pectoral crosses likewise endure in their ability to affect the priest’s person as he becomes more than himself, an ikon of Christ. By contrast, the items of fabric, though classed in the same category of liturgical vestments, must be blessed anew each time for this effectual change. While the visual field of the fabric’s surface (as 2D) constitutes the priest as Christ through the assemblage of symbolic textiles onto the priest’s body, their ability to bless the priest (as 5D) is contingent on the materials out of which they are made. The textiles are sacred, but in order to cause the transformation of the priest into an embodied ikon, they must be placed onto his person (positional efficacy), and in order to do that, he must bless them for this service. As such, the ephemerality of the fabric and the permeability of the priest must enter into 3 Many vestments have small ikons embroidered into or sewn onto the fabric in place of a cross. Some such ikons are, incidentally, also shaped in the form of a cross. The transposition of an ikon in favour of the cross does not change the argument here, as both are considered relics and both, in normal conditions, are enduring objects able to bless. 4 It was this fact that, while I was working as a tailor in Los Angeles, first drew my attention to the topic of this book. The priest, worried that a high-street tailor would not respect the need to ritually destroy the sacred scraps, sought a tailor who was willing to return the scraps for him to burn according to Orthodox custom.
Ikonicity 145 an antiphonal exchange of blessing: the priest blesses the garment so that the garment may bless the priest.
Multiplicity and dividuality The body of the priest is covered, literally wrapped, in cruciform motif. This multiplicity of crosses can be seen as similar to the multiplicity of Christ within the liturgical context. The process of becoming an embodied ikon of Christ is something performed by each priest and bishop each time they serve in a Liturgy. At St Æthelwald’s this meant that on many occasions, with the visitation of a travelling priest, two embodied ikons of Christ served the Liturgy, together. During major feasts in places like Vatopedi, for example on the Great Festival for the Agia Zone 2011, the seventeen hours of liturgical ritual included, at their high point, three bishops and twenty vested priests – others served in various capacities through the night. In situations such as this, the number of embodied ikons of Christ is manifold. There are three bishops and twenty priests;5 each can be understood to be an ikon of Christ. This is in a context also including dozens of painted and mosaic ikons of Christ, let alone those on the vestments, such as Christ the Good Shepherd embroidered on the epigonation of the presiding bishop, the Metropolitan of Bursa, the ceramic inlay Pantokrator on Archbishop Michael of Austria’s mitre, and the pectoral crosses (so called, as they are actually crucifixes) of the bishops and abbot. In this way Christ is represented in multiple material incarnations. The 2D and embodied 3D ikons of Christ mill about together, producing a network of inter-artefactual and inter-ocular relations as Christ blesses Christ blesses Christ. Once the bishops are seated in their canopied cathedras, monks and pilgrims wind their way through the katholikon making proskynesis, kissing the ikons and relics, making prayers, and in this process they likewise approach the bishops to receive their blessing and kiss their hands. As hundreds of monks and pilgrims (there were roughly 700 present for the Feast) come through receiving the blessing of the bishops, the bishops’ right hands become fixed in the posture of blessing, with the ring finger held forward slightly toward the thumb. Making for each supplicant a small gesture back and forth –something hardly constituting four cardinal points, and yet still the sign of the cross –the bishops appear only slightly more animated than the painted ikons. As the passion of the Liturgy plays out, the various embodied ikons of Christ move about and incarnate another Christ, the Eucharist. The difference between the twenty-three clerical embodied ikons at the Feast in Vatopedi and what happens in St Æthelwald’s is only a matter of 5 The number of serving priests varied through the seventeen hours of liturgical ritual, which for great feasts run from early the evening before through till the next day. Likewise the number of bishops. Through the night, fewer serve, but at points such as the Great Entrance, large numbers of clergy participate in the liturgising.
146 Making heaven degree. The manifold Christ seen in such Liturgies is such that distributed ikonicity of Christ in the clergy becomes an ikon of the distributed Christ of the Eucharist. As discussed in the previous chapter, the Eucharist is taken to be the Incarnation of Christ. Each Eucharist, through chronic time, is identical and fundamentally the same event-moment (kairotic time), distributed through lived history. It is then further distributed into the bodies of those partaking of and participating in the Eucharist through divine commensality. As Niyousha-Christina said, ‘I need all the salvation I can get’, and those at St Æthelwald’s tend to commune weekly. In Chapter 6, in discussing Niyousha- Christina’s practice of communing, the role of the Eucharist as a thing with ontological purchase was highlighted. The Eucharist is understood to transform the nature of the person, making the person into itself –that is, making the person to be like Christ. Orthodox Christians use the language of ‘ontology’ here, such that the Eucharist is understood to be, ontologically, human. It is also bread and wine: to use language outlined in the Introduction, it has multiple prototypes. However, while Warnier points out that the believer and the non-believer will see two different realities in the Eucharist (2007:20), here it is argued that even the Orthodox Christian may see two different ‘realities’ in the same Eucharist. Furthermore, it is argued here that the Orthodox Christian may see multiple ‘realities’, or multiple prototypes in the same person. Fr Theophan is ordained in order to serve the congregation, and as such is able to take on the iconic and indexical qualities of Christ in order to, among other things, absolve sins and offer the Eucharist. He nonetheless maintains his own subjecthood, and relates to ikons of Christ (both painted and embodied) with veneration. As such, there is produced a situation where priests move about together in the Liturgy wherein Christ blesses Christ; Christ helps vest (and thus invest) Christ; and ultimately Christ incarnates, sacrifices, and distributes Christ. Christ, as a distributed person and dividual (Hess 2006; Mosko 2010), is then best understood as the primary agent, the indices, the prototype, and, ultimately, the recipient(s) of the Liturgy (cf. Gell 1998).
Modal persons The previous subsection works with the iconic, indexical, and symbolic aspects of the priest and his vesture in order to articulate the Liturgy as a place wherein multiple ikons of Christ do things with and for each other. The final chapter will draw out this intersubjectivity as it relates to non- clerical members of the community. Before expanding the analytical scope, however, the rest of this chapter focuses on the functional quality of the Orthodox person as she relates to and within her material ecology. Contrast is made between the Orthodox use of fabric within modal transformation and the ontological transformation that is understood to occur in Western Christianity. In Roman Catholicism and in Anglicanism, the priest is understood to undergo an ontological transformation at ordination. As an Anglican priest,
Ikonicity 147 whom I interviewed about this subject, said, ‘This is who I am now. When I was ordained by my bishop, an ontological change was worked within my person. To deny this would be to deny who I am.’ For him, as far as he is concerned, he is able to perform Mass should he wish, on his own. Likewise for Roman Catholic priests, their liturgical guidelines recommend daily celebration of the Holy Office, be there others present or not.6 This is not the case for Orthodox priests. As discussed in Chapter 2, the priest needs a congregation, and he also needs his vestments. If need arise, in dire circumstances, such as last rites, a priest who has no epitrachelion may take a string and use it. Blessing the string, and kissing it as he would with a standard epitrachelion, he may put it over his neck and serve the rites of absolution. The consequence of such use is that the thread may then never again be anything but an epitrachelion. Fr Theophan, when he told me of this economy outlined in a typikon (book of liturgical guidelines) he had seen, thought it a lovely example of how practically minded the Church is.7 The thought that a priest should be able to absolve sins without some instrument of vesture, as is the case in Western Christianity, did not cross his mind. For him, his priesthood did not cause an ontological change in his person –all humanity, he tells me, is of one ontology. It is only when taking advantage of what I call the positional efficacy of fabric that the priest is able to fulfil his role as Christ. What happened at Fr Theophan’s ordination, then, was not a shift in ontology; rather, he was set apart for a specific task. He became the heir of certain aspects of the Christian life. He teaches with authority, he has a duty to care for the spiritual needs of the people, and he can, in those situations within the allowance of his bishop, conduct the liturgical services and consecrate the Eucharist. Fr Theophan regularly points out that anyone in the parish can do the greater portion of the tasks given him. Those with knowledge and understanding may teach others, those who see a need are encouraged to care for those in question; what is unique to the office of the priesthood is the performance of the Holy Mysteries –and each of these requires specific vesture beyond his normal clothing. In the process of ordination, the last thing done to a man by the bishop is to dress him. After circling the Holy Table three times, kissing each corner of the Holy Table as well as the hand of the ordaining bishop, the candidate is ordained by the bishop through the laying on of hands. The bishop then presents the priest with a set of white vestments. It is these white vestments that Fr Theophan wears each wedding and Pascha. It is also these white vestments in which Fr Theophan will be 6 Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests No. 49, Celebrating the Eucharist Well, and Vatican II Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis, No 13. 7 Though Fr Theophan was not able to show me the source from whence he got this idea, the tradition can also be attested to in ‘Remembering Vladika John’ by Hieromonk Peter Loukianoff (1991) concerning Bishop, later Saint, John (Maximovich) of San Francisco, saying: ‘Vladika did not allow acolytes [servers] to wear ties under their sticharions [sic]. He explained that if a priest can, in case of emergency, use even a thread instead of an epitrachelion, an acolyte shouldn’t wear a tie around his neck during a service.’
148 Making heaven buried. With the bishop and deacons helping the new priest into the ‘grace of the priesthood’, the priest then concelebrates with the bishop in the consecration of the Eucharist. In this way, much as with the giving of the garment of light to the newly baptised, the fabric is given after the transformation of the person is performed, in order to ‘activate’ the potentiality now present in the body of the initiate. Orthodox use of vesture is not unlike the use of shamanic cloaks by Mongolian Darhad shamans, as discussed by Pedersen (2007). Pedersen outlines the process by which a Darhad shaman takes onto him/herself a set of garments, and thereby is ‘possessed by their protector spirits’ (2007:152). He argues that, with the garments, the shaman is able to enter radically different modes of action, such that the comparison is made to Amerindian ‘multi-naturalism’ (Viveiros de Castro 1998), wherein one person may have multiple ‘ontologically discrete bodies’ (Pedersen 2007:158). The Darhad shaman, argues Pedersen, is both fully human and spirit –when wearing the shamanic garments (ibid.:160). In the case of the Orthodox priest, however, he does not become (or add on) another ‘nature’. He becomes Christ, but Christ is understood to be fully human; Christ is understood, in fact, to be the perfection of human-ness. As such, Fr Theophan’s ‘ontology’ does not change at all in becoming Christ. Rather, it is his person that is shifted. The properties and affordances of the person as permeable and processual link with the transformation affordances of the material, and produce the priest as a participant in the particular aspect of the humanity of Christ. In this way, I argue that Orthodox liturgical fabric can be seen to operate a modal shift in the person of the priest. Fr Theophan- sans-vesture is a priest, but he is unable to do certain things. Fr Theophan- cum-vesture is a priest-come-Christ able to cut the penitent free of her sins and consecrate the bread and wine. In this way, ordination creates a modal person, whose technological possibilities through the functional fusion with fabric open new avenues of doing and being. It is the positional efficacy of the fabric, in tandem with the latent potentialities in the priestly bodies, that shifts the mode of the priest, allowing him to become more than he is, an ikonic embodiment of Christ.
Making Christ, building heaven The incorporation of things into the subject formation of the person is not solely a matter of symbolic attribution. While symbolic attribution is important, this perspective is not complete. Things and substances within the material ecology have veritable impact on the person depending on indexical qualities inherent in their materiality. Like the oil, water, and so many other materials discussed in Chapter 6, the metal of Fr Theophan’s pectoral cross is shown to have enduring efficacy. The metal cross, unlike its fellow vestments made from fabric, does not need to be blessed before each use. The fabric vestments, even though they have the cruciform motif throughout, require a
Ikonicity 149 different kind of engagement. While they maintain holiness, their technical effect is made operational through a giving of blessing. The priest must bless the fabric before the fabric is used to confer ‘the grace of the priesthood’ upon himself. Contrary to Christian priests in Western traditions, Orthodox priests do not consider themselves to be of a different ontology than their parishioners; rather, theirs is a priesthood that becomes operational when taken in tandem with fabric. It is, as has been argued in this chapter, an enacted modal switch within their ontological person, taking on a dual subjecthood. The techniques of the subject that are operable when the priest is vested are significantly different from those when he is not. Consequentially, the permeable and processual person of the priest should also be understood to be modal. In this way, the priest-sans-vestment and the priest-cum-vestment can be seen to be at once the same and different. As an embodied ikon of Christ, the vested priest takes on an additional prototypical relationship. This modal switch is achieved by capitalising on the shifting qualities of fabric, whereby the intersubjective giving and taking of blessing between the multiply distributed Christ extends to the fabric as something which, as a five-dimensional object, can wrap and transform the priest into the iconic and indexical (re)presentation of Christ for the people. This argument, that the priest is a (re)presentation of Christ, able to give to Orthodox Christians particular substances of enduring and positional efficacy, helps draw to a close the problem presented by the empty Anglican building at 9 a.m. that first Sunday. It is at this point, where, following the argument in Chapter 4, St Æthelwald’s can be seen to be heaven, and, following the argument in this chapter, Fr Theophan can be seen to be Christ for the parish, that it begins to make sense why such a diverse number of individuals from such disparate geographic regions would gather weekly in a place that is of no importance to them. The next, and final, chapter now draws these phenomena together, working to understand the purchase of these religious practices on the parishioners of St Æthelwald’s. In so doing, it highlights the widespread use of fabric, and its qualities as a shifting, ephemeral thing in intimate relationship to the body within heaven.
9 Becoming Orthodox, making heaven
The preceding chapters present a number of key ethnographic scenes in order to draw out core principles of Orthodox Christian material culture. Engaging and critiquing current theoretical trends in Anthropology, this ethnography offers a situation wherein certain materials are used in order to facilitate specific kinds of religious subjectivities. Within the material ecology in which Orthodox Christians move, this book draws a classificatory distinction between material with enduring efficacy and material with positional efficacy. These objects (such as ikons and vestments) and substances (such as oil and water) have affective purchase and are used by Orthodox Christians to create the temple of St Æthelwald’s as a sacred space. The weekly creation of the temple is a transformation of place done to facilitate the transformation of person. The material ecology is filled with cataracting objects and cataracting places (as argued in Chapters 2 and 3), linked together by their unpredictable figural excess. Within this milieu, I identify fabric as a principal element within the modes of transformation. It has already been argued (in Chapters 3 and 4) that fabric is a material with a specific kind of torque that creates sacred space. This has been shown in terms of Orthodox engagement with both place and person (in Chapters 4 and 7). This chapter examines the material qualities of fabric –specifically its ephemeral and mutable nature –and argues that these indexical qualities inherent in the material allow items of fabric, operating with positional efficacy, to transform people and place. The chapter draws on two sets of ethnography. The first set addresses relics, specifically the Holy Belt of the Mother of God, the Agia Zone.1 It draws exclusively from research on Mt Athos and compares the materiality of the Zone to other relics present within that context. This ethnographic witness offers a tripartite classification: the soul, the body, and external things. Each aspect within this tripartite split, it is argued, is permeable and processual. I highlight the particularly ephemeral nature of fabric, and argue that such material indexicality allows the inter-permeability of this ‘external thing’ to be particularly obvious, allowing cascading images 1 As mentioned before, ‘zone’ in this context is a transliteration of ζώνη (belt or cincture), and is pronounced zṓnē, or roughly like the name Zoë with an ‘n’ between the vowels.
Becoming Orthodox, making heaven 151 of transformation to be attached to items of fabric. In order to unpack the affective impact of such items of fabric, the subsequent ethnographic set draws from my own experience of pilgrimage and a seventeen-hour festival. My going on pilgrimage, joining in the festival, and returning to the parish fieldsite presents an intersubjectivity that is inter-ocular and inter-artefactual, as the relics and ikons within the place of pilgrimage take the ethnographer to be a conduit back into the lives of people in London. The section argues that in a material ecology where soul, body, and external thing are each permeable and processual, the subjectivities of person and thing (as an object or substance) may be productively confused, allowing subjects to enter into inter- ocular and inter-artefactual relationships with themselves as art-subjects. Taken together, the chapter argues that these experiences of sacred blooming within the mundane work to allow Orthodox Christians to live with God –a phenomenon of Orthodox mysticism that, as outlined in Chapter 4, is here called metastasis.
The Agia Zone The Agia Zone –or variously called the Holy Cincture or Holy Belt or the Girdle of the Theotokos –is a camel-hair belt held by various institutions in the Byzantine Orthodox Church since roughly the 4th century. As it was told to me, the belt was spun by the Virgin Mary’s own hands and worn by her according to a custom at the time whereby a young girl would give such a belt to her husband at the consummation of their marriage. As such, the belt carries very strong correspondence to the body of the Theotokos, of whom there is no body retained by the Church. Her only other relic is a tunic, held by the Dadiani Palace Museum in Zugdidi, Georgia. It is understood that Mary kept the belt, since she, as a perpetual virgin, never gave it to St Joseph the Betrothed. Instead, Mary gave the belt to St Thomas after her death in an episode depicted by a number of ikons throughout the monastery.2 In the ikon in Figure 9.1, the figure of a woman, seated in an egg-shaped roundel, hands the thin belt to an unbearded man. About the shoulders of the woman are the initials for Maria Theotokou. Below her, eleven apostles (count halos, as not all the faces are shown) gaze into an empty tomb. This, known as the Metastasis3 of the Theotokos (Μετάσταση της Θεοτόκου), is what transpired 2 Other accounts, less mystical, suggest that Mary left both the belt and the tunic (about which the Monastery appears not to know; cf Vatopaidi 2004:53, where it claims the belt is the only relic of Mary) to her waiting maids in Jerusalem. They remained there, passed along a hereditary line, till the 5th century, when they came to the attention of the Imperial court and were moved to Byzantium. 3 Metastasis is often translated as ‘translation’, though it is not the word used for feasts such as ‘The Translation of the Relics of St John Chrysostom’, wherein ‘translation’ is ‘anakomide’ (ανακομιδή). Within Vatopedi’s English-language literature (online, for example), ‘transposition’ is used instead. A much more literal translation, it captures the implication that the position, or status, of the Theotokos is understood to have moved, specifically upwards, as she was glorified.
152 Making heaven
Figure 9.1 Ikon of the Metastasis of the Theotokos on a wall within Vatopedi’s katholikon, showing Mary handing Thomas the Holy Cincture; the Apostles look in wonder into the empty tomb.
after Mary’s death. The teaching of the Orthodox Church is that when, at a great age, Mary approached death, she made two final requests. The first was that her son, the risen Christ, meet her upon her repose; the second was that the remaining apostles be gathered together one final time. The first request is shown to be fulfilled in the ikons of the Feast of the Dormition (or Kimisis) of the Theotokos (Κοίμηση της Θεοτόκου), where Christ holds a swaddled Mary, even as the wake proceeds. Likewise, in ikonographic depictions of the Dormition, a gathering of apostles and other faithful is seen around the event. The person absent from the Dormition ikon is St Thomas. He, as shown in the Metastasis ikon, was arriving late, by air. Throughout the period of my research, I was told (or told to read) various accounts of the Kimisis and Metastasis of the Theotokos. There was variety
Becoming Orthodox, making heaven 153 in how specific aspects played out, and to what degree the narrative relies on miraculous intercession. For example, an account I was given early in my research by an Orthodox Welshman, who was living in London at the time and attending St Æthelwald’s, explained that St Thomas, having been in India, arrived late –a full three days after the body of Mary was laid to rest. He, wishing to give his last regards to the mother of his Lord, asked that the tomb be re-opened. On doing this, the Apostles found no body –only her belt and tunic, in which she had been entombed. Deeply distraught, the Apostles retreated in prayer to discern what had happened. Mary appeared to them, explaining that she had gone before them into the Resurrection, to pray for them before God. This version of the account is quite rare. I heard it only once. By far the more common details indicate that St Thomas, being detained in India, could not make it to Mary’s side before her repose. To speed him on his way, angels carried him, and he met Mary in passing as she ascended, also carried by angels. Within the monastery, this latter account is expressed universally. Furthermore, I was told that when Mary gave St Thomas the belt, she instructed him that it was for the Church. In this way, the belt is understood to be emblematic of her perpetual virginity and her dedication to the Church. As such, it holds a particularly important place within the monastery on Mt Athos, a place understood to be the ‘Garden of the Theotokos’. Mary has promised, I am told, to pray for the salvation of any brother who comes to be a monk on this peninsula. As the caretakers of the Holy Cincture since the 14th century, the monks of the monastery have been called on at times to bring the belt out to cities and individuals in great need.4 They also indicated that Mary, through her belt (and most commonly through cotton ribbons blessed over the belt), has also healed countless faithful of cancer and brought children to barren women. All this is celebrated during the Feast of the Agia Zone on 31 August. The preparations within the monastery’s main church, the katholikon, begin more than a month in advance. The sacristan cleans chandeliers and lampstands; he brings out more ornate hanging lamps, and a greater number of them, to hang from various fixtures within the building. Closer to the feast, special ornaments –such as a life-size lemon tree made of various precious and semiprecious metals –are arranged within the katholikon. Elsewhere about the monastery, the regular schedule is also upset by preparations for the Feast. The Archondariki (Guesthouse) pulls recruits from other areas of the monastery to help prepare spare beds, 600 of them, in various places –even moving monks out of their cells to make more guest rooms. Food preparations also demand more hands, and large numbers of monks and pilgrims are required to help with the harvest of grapes and other table fruits. No meat is eaten anywhere on the peninsula, but great feasts do warrant fish, and here, too, large 4 A few examples: Constantinople during the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz; Cyprus during a locust plague; Russia in 2012.
154 Making heaven
Figure 9.2 Ikon of the Agia Zone, showing Mary holding her belt, arranged in a canopied analogion in the katholikon of Vatopedi for the Feast.
numbers of monks and pilgrims are recruited to help clean each day’s catch.5 On a number of days, while working in the Raphio (tailor shop), I was co- opted along with the other tailors to go harvest grapes, clean fish, or arrange and make cot beds. As the eve of the feast approaches, guests pour in, and finally, 30 August arrives. After the regular 4 a.m. Liturgy, a fasting meal of whole garden vegetables and bread is served. Those who have light work to do that must be done go to do it, but for the most part pilgrims and monks who do not have urgent work are encouraged to rest. Around noon, a small procession 5 It is worth noting that there is enough in this sentence to warrant another book. The cycles of feasts and fasts, each day following on the next, are spelled out in the foods laid out at table. Likewise, the self-sufficiency of the monastery to produce its own food, and the sometimes miraculous means by which the monks understand this to happen, are all things that could well be explored but do not fit within the purview of this book.
Becoming Orthodox, making heaven 155 and welcome ceremony is held for a bishop arriving that day, and then toward four in the afternoon, a small Vespers is held. After that is the evening meal, consisting of garden vegetables, vinegar, bread, and water. Then, from 5.30 p.m. till 11.30 p.m., the Vigil follows. It is during this time that the reliquary of the Holy Cincture is presented. Once it is presented, the roughly 700 monks and pilgrims move forward to venerate it: first the bishops, then the abbot, then the monks, according to rank within the brotherhood, giving precedence to their monastic guests from a brother monastery elsewhere on Athos. After the monks have moved through, the pilgrims follow, pushing forward to form a queue in front of the rug unrolled before the reliquary. As this process draws to a close, everyone is encouraged to exit the katholikon. In 2011, I followed directions, left with the other pilgrims, and was ushered upstairs into the great meeting (synaxis) room. Here, a small snack is served of a cold chocolate-covered vegan ice cream and a shot of liqueur – both made by the monastery. Each of the bishops present was invited to address the monks and pilgrims, and a short discussion ensued concerning the nature of the feast, but touching on the unfolding economic crisis and other global events. In 2012, I remained in the katholikon. Here, the quiet chanting of the psalms continued as some of the brothers arranged furniture needed for the artoklasia (breaking of bread), which was to follow. For the greater portion of the roughly half an hour before the synaxis ended, the katholikon contained only a few monks and pilgrims and a few chanting voices. Pilgrims stood (or sat) facing the reliquary, their lips and hands moving in silent prayer. Taking turns, one at a time, pilgrims approached the reliquary. Most went down on their hands and knees in full prostration before the Agia Zone. Some stayed prostrate before the relic for some time before rising, kissing it, and moving back to their place. A few approached the relic, standing roughly five metres off (enough space such that others could come and prostrate before the belt), and stood in extended prayer –emotion written upon their face, and penitence inscribed in their shoulders. While some men let their hands hang at their sides, or held them together in supplication, a few made small gesticulations, as though in animated conversation with the Mother of God.
Co-action of soul, body, external things6 Coming face to face with relics is a common occurrence on Mt Athos. The daily routine allows the veneration of relics on most mornings –as and when the monastery holds a relic for a saint whose memory is celebrated that day. Each evening, too, a selection of relics is brought out for pilgrims to venerate, many of whom are only in each monastery for one night. Directly after the evening meal, while the sun was still strong, casting long shadows through the 6 This section is the reworking of two earlier papers (Carroll 2016b and 2017b), the first of which may be of particular interest to some readers, as the soul, body, and external things trichotomy is there developed as an expansion upon the work of St Clement of Alexandria.
156 Making heaven doors into the katholikon, a long table was arranged inside the katholikon in front of the ikonostasis. Along the table, from the south to the north, were arranged five relics of particular note: the Agia Zone of the Mother of God; a piece of the Cross; the reed used by the Roman centurion to give Christ vinegar; the head of St John Chrysostomos; and another head, usually that of St Evdokimos (a monk of Vatopedi), though sometimes St Gregory the Dialogist was brought out instead. Spaced along the long table, these relics are made available to pilgrims. Dozens of pilgrims, broken into groups according to language, are led around the katholikon on tour by monks appointed to perform this duty. They are brought to the relics in shifts, and the monk explains who each is for those who may not recognise them. Most push forward to kiss them; some do prostrations in front of each. Most men also pass handfuls of prayer ropes, crosses, and other small trinkets to the priest who is there caring for the relics for them to be blessed. Rubbing the handful of items over each relic, the priest blesses the trinkets, which in turn are taken home by the pilgrims as gifts, or to help heal a loved one who cannot come to the monastery themselves. Within the monastic context, two uses of relics can be seen: as a point of liturgical focus (such as in the Feast of the Agia Zone) and as an object of pilgrims’ devotion (seen in the individual prostration and intersubjective nature of this veneration). As bodies of saints, they copresence –that is, allow ‘the conditions in which human individuals interact with one another face to face from body to body’ (Zhao 2003:445) –the saints themselves, allowing the formation of intersubjective communication in a highly sensual context. Pina- Cabral (2013), discussing Lucien Lévy-Bruhl’s term ‘participation’ as akin to ‘copresence’, observes how this phenomenon may exist ‘with other persons, with collectives, with supernatural forces, and even with material aspects of their world (things)’ (ibid.:266). The historian David Lowenthal, in his work on the past as a foreign country, points out that an object from the past easily becomes ‘a tangible relic [and] seems ipso facto real’ (1985:244). Such relics allow ‘participation’ and become conduits of prayer and devotion in the expression of religious devotion and supplicatory appeal. The copresence of and with the saint spiritually through the materiality of the relic, and the role of liturgical and supplicatory prayer, requires an expanded view of the relic as a participant in the liturgy of Orthodox prayer. It is an intersubjective ‘together with’, like Ingold’s (2010) notion of being caught up together in action, just as it is together with the people and the clergy, into which the relics join. This notion of ‘together with’, as an iterative and inter-permeable process, is also emblematic of how relics are understood to be made. On one of the occasions when I joined the English-speaking tour of the katholikon, a Catalonian father and son were also present. As nominal Catholics, they understood generally the concept of relics, but the son expressed confusion as to how they worked, and so the monk guiding the tour explained, saying that the human person is both body and soul, and one cannot be considered without the other. Furthermore, they work together, he
Becoming Orthodox, making heaven 157 said, and here he enmeshed his fingers, trying to think of the right word. After flexing his interdigitated hands, he finally settled on the English cognate for the Greek word he was thinking: synergy. There is a synergy between the body and soul, he explained, and then glossed it as ‘cooperation’. A man or woman leading a holy life, he continued, does something spiritual, but it cannot be spiritual alone. The body must also take part in the ascetic struggle, and as such, the body, too, becomes holy. Likened to the struggle of an athlete, such an ascetic struggle is routine and continuous. The god-like quality of saints makes their bodies holy things (that is, in Ingold’s sense, ‘a place where several goings on become entwined’ [2010:96]), because the connection between the body and the soul works a lasting effect on the physical body, something which lasts even past death. The iterative accumulation of the affective impact of materials of enduring efficacy, coupled with a life of prayer, is seen to produce holy objects as a by-product of producing holy subjects. In this way, the synergistic co- action of the material and immaterial connects the two extremes as continuations of each other. In fact, the co- action of material is not limited to the physical body. The first three relics on the table, as described earlier, are composed of non-human biomatter. Two are associated with the crucifixion of Christ; the other is a camel-hair belt, which is understood to have been woven and worn by his mother. This belt is brought out each evening for the veneration of the pilgrims, and bolts of ribbon are blessed over the relic in order to produce items that may be given to the faithful to return home with. These, what I will call derivative relics,7 are considered to be relics and are sought in order to secure various miracles. Through the ribbons, I was told, the Panagia Theotokos has healed numerous cases of cancer, brought children to countless barren women, and protected individuals from harm. One, a senior hieromonk told me, was in the breast pocket of a police officer, and stopped a bullet to the heart. In the same way as the head of St John Chrysostom is sufficient to presence the entirety of St John, a derivative relic of blessed cotton ribbon is spoken of as the belt. It becomes a relic of the relic, but in no way is it considered to diminish the potential wonder-working capacity –as Buchli (2010b) points out in his work on prototypicality in the context of early Christian use of ikons, the distinction between original and copy is hard to make, and as such, the cotton ribbon may be venerated as one would the camel-hair original. The ephemerality of such objects does not hinder the effect they are able to have; rather, the flexible, soft manipulability of the fabric heightens the effectiveness. Whereas solid relics require boxes or wall mountings, fabric can be wound, tied, folded around a body or into a pocket. Thus, the indexical qualities of the material foster a more overt synergistic co-action of the mutable relic with the body. 7 See Carroll (2016b) for a longer discussion on the classification of types of relics. Because of problems outlined in this earlier work, I have chosen here to avoid the ‘primary’, ‘secondary’, and ‘tertiary’ classification of relics that is standard in Catholic and Art Historical sources.
158 Making heaven This has outlined the synergy of body and soul toward the production of relics. Now, two other synergistic relations have subsequently emerged. The first is that of external things produced as relics. The Holy Zone, for example, is a relic of the Virgin Mary; though she is understood to have died, no body remained on earth, as she was raised on the third day. Her items of clothing, however, she gave to the Church. These have become holy through their association with her holy life. To put it another way, in Orthodox Christianity, things (as places of goings on), as well as people, may become holy, if the social life of those things is a holy one. The next synergistic relation flows from this. Through cooperation in the Virgin’s ascetic struggle, the belt was made holy. And while the Panagia was materially removed from the world in her body, her belt, as well as her tunic, remained. These, being given to the Church, are used within the liturgical and pilgrimatic ascesis of Orthodox faithful. By aligning the flow (in Ingold’s use) of the body and soul to the figural excess (in Pinney’s use) of the Holy Belt, a synergetic cooperation is understood to function between the sacred materiality of the Virgin’s belt and the (im)materiality of the penitent’s soul and body. The affective cooperation of things, and the co-active effect of holy things toward Orthodox persons in their effort to be holy, is markedly similar to Ingold’s idea of the textility of making, the joining in of what he calls the flow in the making of art. He says: A work of art, I insist, is not an object but a thing and, as [Paul] Klee argued, the role of the artist –as that of any skilled practitioner –is not to give effect to a preconceived idea, novel or not, but to join with and follow the forces and flows of material that bring the form of the work into being. (2010:97) It is this, being ‘swept up in the generative currents of the world’ (ibid.:95), which Ingold identifies as the productive mechanism of making art. Ingold’s main point, that artefacts are things (not, what he sees as dead, objects) with their own generative flow, is helpful in considering the productive cooperation of Orthodox relics and people. However, one significant departure and one curious alteration are presented by the ethnography of relics detailed here. The departure from Ingold’s model is in relation to the fact that Orthodox people do hold something of a preconceived idea in their mind when engaging with relics. For some, it is very clear: one man passed a white onesie to the priest to have it blessed over the relics; he took it home to heal his sick infant daughter. For some, it is slightly less clear, but still a preconceived idea: one young man came regularly to the Holy Mountain to visit the monks and pray before the miracle-working ikons and relics. He told me he was doing so to be close to the Theotokos and learn how to be holy –something he expressed as ‘becoming Orthodox’ and ‘becoming human’. While this may not be the hylomorphic model (the bringing together of ‘form’ and ‘matter’) Ingold
Becoming Orthodox, making heaven 159 (2010:92) tries to dismiss, it is nonetheless purposeful, and modelled after specific ends in mind. The alteration to Ingold’s model concerns the aspect within each of these accounts outlined wherein the end result is not the production of the thing – in this case the relic –but the production of the people. Joining in the ‘generative flow’ of things in this Orthodox context is a means to craft the human person as art-like, not the fashioning of a sculpture or other artefact (as Ingold discusses). In the passing of the white onesie, the man passes an object and asks the priest to make it an index of the relic. The priest blesses it over each relic, making the cotton clothing item an index of the sacred and a conduit of the blessing to be conferred onto the man’s daughter. For the young man, and many like him, who came to the mountain to venerate the holy ikons and relics, to visit a renowned spiritual father, or to learn how to pray, the various techniques of joining the generative flow of Mt Athos and the sacred objects therein contained were an explicit making (becoming) of the self as Orthodox and human. This iterative transformation of the self is most visible in those who come as pilgrims and stay as monks, as their whole way of life is crafted into the production of themselves as holy. But the same modes of life (characterised by kenosis, repentance, ascesis) can be seen in others, too. The practice of joining the productive flow of material in order to produce the self returns to the issue of human indices. As outlined in Chapter 6, the Orthodox person is understood to be an ikon of God (a relation taken to be innate in all human beings) and specifically God the Son, Jesus Christ (a relation cultivated through ritual practice). Here, in the monk’s explication of how relics come into being, it can be seen that the art-like formation of the human subject in the likeness of Christ works on the premise that the inter- permeability of people and things –the co-action of soul, body, and external things –along lines of flow which produce the likeness of Christ are seen to produce saints and, concomitantly, relics. In the previous chapter, it was argued that the modal ikonicity of the priest-as-embodied-Christ utilises the surface of the vested priest, such that it is the outer appearance (the images of Christ) wrapped about his body, not his interiority (his state as a ‘sinner’), that articulates who he is as a priest during the Liturgy. Here, it can be seen that the surface and depth, outside and inside, affect each other, such that relics are made through outward transformation and saints are made through inward transformation. However, a critical flaw appears in this argument. At the presentation of the Agia Zone, the relic is used to bless the people. Likewise, the onesie and komboskinia (prayer ropes) are taken back by the pilgrims to bless their family and loved ones. In these cases, it appears, fabric does not exhibit positional efficacy –these items of fabric can bless without needing a blessing right before use. In order to resolve this apparent contradiction concerning how fabric works within the communication of blessing, this next section looks at another kind of ephemeral object in order to help understand the materiality of fabric, and thereby understand the indexical quality of fabric’s
160 Making heaven figural excess. In doing so, this apparent flaw will be resolved, leading to a better understanding of both people and fabric.
The sign of the cross In the same way as the soul, the body, and external things enjoy an inter- permeability through which each may affect the others, substances of blessing may confer blessing from a distance. The priest, before placing a relic on a small table for veneration in the midst of the morning service, holds it aloft and blesses the congregation, using the reliquary to make the sign of the cross over the people. Within the compound of Vatopedi, the sign of the cross is made in more ways than I can enumerate here. The sign of the cross is a thing –note, a thing –that is deployed everywhere: upon entering, upon leaving, if something is broken, if something is working, when one yawns, when one goes to sleep, when one wakes, when one eats. The sign of the cross is, as seen in the act of the Sarakatsani man mentioned in the Introduction, a prayer in its own right. As a prayer, it has many interpretations, and can be an object of meditation itself (see, for example, Andreopoulos 2006). In most cases, it is used to gain or confer blessing or seek protection. There are different ways to hold the fingers of the hands, depending on whether the person is episcopal, clerical, or lay, but all Orthodox Christians are expected to make the sign of the cross over themselves as well as any number of other people and things. As already mentioned, sitting on the table on the solea of the katholikon is a piece of the Sacred Cross –this certainly is a relic, but I was assured by informants that the sign of the cross, too, is a relic and must be thought of as one. The gestured motion, with the first three fingers pinched together and the last two flush against the pad of one’s palm, makes a relic. It is not that the hand is a relic,8 but that the entirely insubstantial tracing in the air is a relic. By participating in the formal quality of the crucified Christ, the gestured cross is understood to presence and endow the blessing of that act within the situation. Having worked as a tailor before returning to academia, I received a blessing from the abbot to work with the tailors while at Vatopedi. The Romanian monk under whose guidance I was to work showed me the various machines and their temperaments. Pulling up the chair, he gathered his skirts and sat down, flicked on the power switch, and then with his right hand made a small cross over the space of the sewing needle. Throughout the weeks I worked alongside him, this was routine. Each time he or the other tailors sat down at a sewing machine, or turned on the iron, a sign of the cross was made over the mechanism. Each time a bobbin needed re-threading, the sign of the cross. These were not large motions; no attention was drawn to the making of such 8 NB there is a tradition arising from the teaching of St John Chrysostom that the hand of the priest is a relic of Christ, as it has touched and made the body and blood of Christ.
Becoming Orthodox, making heaven 161 a sign, but as routine as turning on the power, so was the making of the sign of the cross. In this gesture, we have a case of what appears to be an entirely immaterial relic. It is not just ephemeral; it is fugacious. It is even less durable than fabric and ribbon relics; and as such, it is also even more deployable. It may be used everywhere to bless everything. With normal relics, it is the very material of the saint through which the contact is made. With the sign of the cross, the representational form is enough to make the same contact, through which grace is conferred. In both cases, and indeed also with ikons, the co-action of grace, efficacious toward the holiness of the supplicant, is because of ‘the truth of the person’, and their connection to God through experiential knowledge and personal relationship (Yannaras 1975) is present in the relic. It is tempting to say that the gestured object9 (not the embodied gesture, but that thing produced out of the gesture) is immaterial. There is no physical substance to it, yet throughout my research I saw evidence to suggest it must be considered as a material object and indication from interviewees that they thought of it as somehow material, too. It is something made; it can be given and received, and comes with a blessing which is always worth having. This expanded materiality allows us to consider bone, cloth, and the unseen fugacious simulacra of gestured prayer all within the same panorama of material substances. And while, on the one hand, it expands material out to the insubstantial, it also suggests, on the other hand, that our current understanding of materiality, in its hard, durable, substantial form, is likewise only half the picture. In the space between spiritual religion and material religion, there may need to be made room for continua of immaterial substances and insubstantial materials.
Anaphoric objects It is the argument here sustained that the torqueing of material along anaphoric chains offers an analytic model to understand the formation and co- active abilities of such sacred objects. It has already been argued in Chapter 4 that the materiality of fabric facilitates the production of sacred space. The indexical qualities of fabric mean that it is a pliable material which can fold and open, hide and reveal –even at the same time; it can take on colour and odour, can flutter and –if in the right material and the right light –shimmer. All of these qualities are highlighted by informants as they seek language to describe the action they perceive the fabric to facilitate. When taken about the body, or placed within space, these items of fabric are able to transform place and people through their positional efficacy, switching the operative mode of people (e.g. Fr Theophan into the embodied ikon of Christ-as-priest) and buildings (e.g. an Anglican edifice into an Orthodox temple). This is the 9 That is, a ‘thing’ which is produced by a subject, a bundle of ‘goings-on’ in Ingold’s sense, but one that is ‘real’, following Gell’s use of ‘object’ and ‘objectification’, even if it is not physical.
162 Making heaven indexicality inherent in the material being torqued in specific manners –the artist joining with the generative flow of the matter. So far, this book has focused on the transformation of place and people as a result of materials such as fabric or oil –but what of the effect on the material used within the conjoined generative flow? In the case of the Agia Zone, the camel-hair belt was in cooperation with the Mother of God until her metastasis –her translation to the final position of being with God. During her metastasis, Mary gave St Thomas her belt. This fabric belt is said to be something that would have been given to her husband at the consummation of their marriage. This never happened, and instead it was given to the Church. It is out of this account, among others, that the anaphoric chain is derived of successive productive images of Mary’s closeness to the Church, her chastity, monastic virginity, betrothal and marriage, childbirth, the giving of wanted growth and ending of unwanted growth, the healing of cancer. In Mary’s metastasis, her belt took on an anaphoric quality linked to her and all that she is associated with. As what will now be termed an anaphoric object, the Agia Zone is a material thing linked, by the torque of its figural excess, to the anaphoric chain in which it participates. As such, it carries the co-active subjectivities of Mary in the material indexicalities of fabric. This is why the Zone need not be blessed in order to bless the congregation, breaking the model of positional efficacy that required antiphonal blessing seen in the priestly vestments. While it is fabric, it acts with the subjectivity of Mary, not the objectivity of textile. Before moving on to explore more fully the social impact of this, albeit abstract, cultural logic of material, it is helpful to briefly discuss this process of metastasis in the context of another set of materials. As an anaphoric object, it is here argued, the Agia Zone takes on the subjectivity of the Theotokos within the operational capacity of the material indexicalities of fabric. This is the same sort of thing that occurs in the Eucharist. In Chapter 6, it was discussed that Niyousha- Christina partakes of the Eucharist because she needs all the salvation she can get. There, the anaphoric chain linking the Eucharist to Christ to the work of salvation was given. In light of this present discussion, it is now possible to say that the enduring efficacy of the Eucharist is likewise made possible by the indexical qualities inherent in the material of bread, wine, and water acting as an anaphoric object calling forth, and taking into the person through commensality, the entire anaphoric chain of Christ’s subjectivity. As the priest argued, each act of communion operates a complete theosis; that is, the person by taking communion comes into the full likeness of God. By capitalising on the figural excess of mundane matter, Orthodox Christians are able to link things onto anaphoric chains, allowing the torqueing of these objects and images to have affective impact on the subject formation of their own selves as ikons (icons and indices) of God. Placing themselves into the cataracting chains of these sacred artefacts means that the inter-ocular subjectivity spoken of in previous chapters is also an inter-artefactual domain including
Becoming Orthodox, making heaven 163 the Orthodox Christian as an art-like subject in relation of production with the objects in their material ecology.
I swear I saw this After the synaxis, midway through the seventeen-hour ritual cycle for the Feast of the Agia Zone, most men returned to the katholikon, while some retired to their quarters for the night. In the church, the chanting of the psalms gave way to the service of artoklasia (literally, the breaking of the bread). The next four hours continued in prayer. As the penitential and supplicatory tone of the vigil began to move toward the celebration and triumph of the Feast, cycles formed in the mood, tone,10 and lighting of the katholikon. Even I, with no training in music, could tell when the tones shifted, lifting the mood of the entire gathering. More voices joined together, layered atop each other as the antiphons echoed from north to south across the temple. Those monks appointed to the task lit the chandeliers, and as the numbers of lit candles grew, the rising arches of the 10th-century basilica grew brighter. As the apex of the hymnody approached, the monks grabbed the lower part of the chandeliers and began, slowly, to set them swinging. It is in this light that one best understands the temple. Here is when the building begins to sing with the people. The resonance of the baritone and bass voices, more than a dozen combined in each antiphon, reverberates into the arches with the bright, dancing light of the candles set in swinging oscillation. It may have been the sleep deprivation, or the limited food and the shot of strong drink, but, to use Taussig’s (2011) words, ‘I swear I saw this’ –for it was in this light that the mosaics and frescoes which looked down from the centuries began to move. The great, majestic chant, now met with the chiming tintinnabulation of a sweet-spiced censer’s bells, filled the huge cavity of that stone edifice –a place reputed to be heaven on earth. In the undulating phosphorescence of a hundred candle lights, which floated above the heads even as, I was told, the angels do, there –as the head tilts back to see the swinging chandeliers –the counter-movement of lights and golden ikons behind animates the seen world even as the dome of heaven. In this light, the mosaics, glinted with gold, moved. Their quiet solemnity shifted, and they swayed in counter-movement to the hundred flickering lights casting shimmering illumination upon them. I could find no evidence one way or another to say whether this katholikon had been constructed in such a manner, but literature concerning the Byzantine modes of architectural construction suggests that this building, too, might have been built with hollow urns set into the walls (Zakinthinos and Skarlatos 2007). These hollow cavities are known in architectural analysis to produce resonances, such that 10 Tones, or modes (ήχος, íchos), in Byzantine Chant denote specific relations of notes used to sing a given hymn or passage. These eight structures afford distinct moods, such as triumph or remorse, to the music.
164 Making heaven when the walls are met with sustained musical frequency, they (that is, the walls) begin to resonate, too. It is not too much to say, then, as it accords with my perception at the time, and with those of pilgrims with whom I spoke after the fact, that the ikons, or possibly the walls behind them, sang with the people. As such, what I swear I saw was that the Archangel Gabriel and the Panagia Theotokos, the Empress Helena and Constantine the Great, and countless other members of the saintly choir danced and sang with the monks and pilgrims. In that moment, it was the saints who were animate and the living who stood still. In this way, an apex is met, and the tone shifts again. The pendular swing of the giant chandeliers diminishes as the slow grind of friction takes its toll. Once still, the monks appointed to the task go around to snuff out the lights and trim the wicks. The hundred shimmering lights are snuffed to a humble few, and darkness again returns to the katholikon. The chorus of voices is cut off, and a solitary voice is left intoning the psalms. This cycle, done three times throughout the night, draws the monks and pilgrims together with the angelic powers and the saints into an oscillating ebb and flow of exaltation and supplication before the Belt of the Mother of God. In the full light of the following day, as the several hundred pilgrims prepare to leave, fistfuls of cotton ribbon relics of the Zone and little vials of oil are handed out to pilgrims crowded around to get some of the grace to take home with them.
‘Bring me back a relic’ The biography of the saint continues past their mortal repose (cf. Geary 1986, 1990). The places where their relics reside are holy places of pilgrimage. Those who are able to go travel with petitions to ask the saints on behalf of those who cannot go; and they return bringing gifts from the saints to give to those back home. In late August 2012, as I was preparing to go to Vatopedi the second time, I asked Seraphim if there was anything from the Holy Mountain he would like me to bring back for him. ‘Yes’, he said, ‘Bring me back a relic.’ I laughed, thinking this was a joke, but through discussions with the brothers over the next couple of weeks, I learned that it was entirely possible and encouraged. I returned with a handful of relics. Strips of ribbons which had been blessed over the Agia Zone; small plastic eyedroppers of oil from the lamps which burn before the miracle-working ikons; little print replicas of the Pandanassa (Mary the Queen of All), Vimatarissa (Mary who sits at the Bema), and Paramythia (Mary of Consolation): all of these are, I am told, relics of the Panagia Theotokos. As with St Spyridon, spoken of in Chapter 2, place is part of biography, and biographies extend past one’s mortal engagements. The relics that I brought back from Vatopedi, linked through ikonic representation and physical encounter with other ikons and objects with their own holy biographies, serve to extend the mind (see Gell 1998) of the holy saints out into the homes and
Becoming Orthodox, making heaven 165 parish gatherings of those at St Æthelwald’s. The sensuous encounter with holy oil, ikons, or blessed ribbons gives tactile and efficacious solidity to the religious imagination of the Orthodox Christian. As Lowenthal points out, ‘accessibility is [an] advantage of tangible remains’, such that ‘relics can come to us without [our] conscious aim or effort’ (1985:245). Such encounters, particularly those experienced in the liturgical enactment of great feasts, confront the monk and pilgrim with persons they may not know. What is known is that they are holy, and the relic is understood to have a generative flow that can help form the subjectivity of the self in like torqueing toward holiness. When Seraphim asked for a relic, he did so because he knew that relics are held to have the ability to help people live as they should.11 In other words, the artefact can influence the formation of the subject. Gell introduces the idea of the ‘inter-artefactual domain’, saying: Artefacts are shaped in the ‘inter-artefactual domain’, obeying the immanent injunctions governing formal stylistic relations among artefacts, not in response to external injunctions from some imaginary ‘head office’. (1998:216) What is argued here is that Orthodox devotees engage (and are engaged by) the virtuosity of relics, such that the immanent stylistic relation (i.e. the formal and representational aspects of the relic to the saint) impinge on the artefactual formation of the devotee. In Chapter 6, it was argued that the art-like quality of the Orthodox person exhibited multiple prototypical relationships between the person-as-index and the types after which they modelled their lives –such as Christ and, in the case of Niyousha-Christina, St Christina of Persia. Another aspect of the art-like quality of Orthodox persons is now added. This inter-artefactual aspect is why the circular ocularity spoken of in Chapter 4 is so important to Orthodox spirituality. By entering the temple, the devotee places herself in the immediate context of a stylistic milieu of being-like-Christ. At several points during fieldwork, informants spoke of the affective impact upon their person of standing in front of an ikon, being able to gaze into the eyes of Christ or, more commonly, the Theotokos or their patron saint. Here, this inter-ocular aspect is understood as an inter- artefactual aspect of the person in the subjective formation into the likeness of the holy person. The fact that Orthodox selves are also bodied subjects, and the soul and the body and external things are inter-permeable, allows such artefactual formation of stylistic virtuosity. 11 This is an ancient tradition. See, for example, the hagiography of St Boniface of Rome and Tarsus (290 AD). He, a slave, left Rome for Tarsus in order to bring home to the house of his mistress, St Aglaida (or Aglaia), a relic so that they might be aided in their struggle to live purely. Seeing the Christians put to death in the arena in Tarsus of Cilicia, he joined their ranks. His body was returned to Aglaida, who, for her part, lived out her days in prayer. St Boniface and St Aglaida are celebrated together on 19 December.
166 Making heaven In the example of Seraphim’s request for me to bring back a relic, as with his meeting St Seraphim by chance upon a visit to the Russian Cathedral, the sacred is seen not only to ‘come to us without conscious aim or effort’ (Lowenthal 1985:245), but also to draw other materials and people into living with the sacred. While there are moments of engagement with the sacred, such as when, as described earlier, the ikons in the katholikon began to sing and dance, that could be marked as moments of ek-stasis, the practical output of the ritual is not transcendent out-of-body euphoria. Rather, the point of such rituals is to come to live with God, not in an ecstatic or transcendent manner, but rather to allow, through various material engagements, the holy to break through into the mundane aspects of life. One way this is achieved is through the distribution of the derivative relics, holy oil, and the circulation of ikons, such that the copresence with the holy may rupture forth into everyday life. This final section turns to understand this orientation toward living-with-God –or, as it is called here, meta-stasis: an embodied intersubjective orientation toward and within the holy.
Metastasis As mentioned, the near-ecstasy of the festal rites in honour of the Agia Zone culminates the following day in pilgrims acquiring replica relics of the Zone with which to return home. Fabric’s malleability, permeability, and ephemerality make it an ideal material upon which to attach cascading images of the holy. These three qualities allow the raw material to be moulded and take on additional properties through, for example, impregnation with pigment or oil; fabric has an intuitive temporality distinct from that of durable materials like stone. Fabric, as a material that covers the body and takes into itself the shape and scent of the wearer, is highly evocative. With the belt, its intimate life around the body of the Theotokos has produced it as a relic of her, and, as is argued above, an anaphoric object of her. In the separation of Mary from her garments –when she died and left her belt before being taken to heaven –there is a physical discontinuity produced, wherein the discontinuity itself is a relationship of continuity. In this way, the relationship between the relic and the saint can be seen as similar to the giving-while-keeping that Empson (2007, 2011) notes in her work about Buriat notions of fortune in the Mongolian steppe. There, Empson observes that, for example, a saliva and hair sample is taken from a cow before trading it outside the family (2007:115). Likewise, hair, umbilical cords, and afterbirths are kept within the maternal home (ibid.:120). These practices of retaining a portion, or sample, of the thing or person sent out mean that nothing truly leaves. Fortune, it is felt, that comes to the cow traded out will nonetheless come to the originating house, because the saliva retained is still part of the cow. Similarly, the physical proximity of the afterbirths, kept together in the drawers of the household chest, means that the family are kept together even though they may be spread out across the steppe. In like manner, the separation of saints
Becoming Orthodox, making heaven 167 from their relics (be they bodily or external things) is a separation that keeps things together. Grasping one element of an anaphoric chain calls forth everything to which it refers; as such, material engagement with anaphoric objects can be seen to likewise engage the entire chain of successive images. As is discussed in comparison between the Agia Zone and the Eucharist, the materiality of the anaphoric object provides specific means by which the Orthodox devotee is able to engage with the chain. Fabric’s indexical qualities allow an intimate, sensual, layering, and malleable engagement, such that affective spaces of the holy may be made. These spaces about the person and within the built environment allow the person to experience tangible engagement with objects of transformation. Arising from participation within the inter-artefactual domain, the Orthodox Christian is able to undergo transformation, too, and because of the objects make their own likeness into that of God, and thereby become truly human. Returning to the problematic laid out in the Introduction, it can now be said that what I witnessed during those first two hours of observation on that first Sunday in the fieldsite was Orthodox rupture. Working with the indexical qualities of material, the parishioners and clergy of St Æthelwald’s Antiochian Orthodox Church assemble themselves within a mundane place and transform it into a space of heaven. Capitalising on the materiality of objects, both local and brought in from abroad, the parishioners make a space wherein they may enter into an inter-artefactual relationship with the holy and become ikons of Christ. As noted in Chapter 5, ‘conversion stories’ are not particularly important to those at St Æthelwald’s, even among those who have them.12 Rather, conversion is only part of an ongoing process of transformation. As it plays out in Baptism, it is a transformation that is articulated by the use of a number of materials and represented (or completed) by the giving of two symbolic representations of the uncreated light: the baptismal garment of light and the candle. The transformation which begins in Baptism, and is likened to the Transfiguration of Christ, is continued through habitual engagement within the inter-artefactual and intersubjective arena of ritual practice. The sacred quality of the inter-artefactual domain transforms mundane space into heaven and, through externalising and internalising permeability, transforms people into becoming Orthodox subjects. The potency of the inter-artefactual domain of the sacred should not be underestimated.
12 This is in slight divergence from what Slagle found in her 2008 study of conversion in American Orthodoxy; however, this difference may be accounted for in two ways. First, Slagle is specifically looking for these accounts. Second, among my informants, it was those from more Protestant evangelical backgrounds who more readily had these narratives to offer – this fits wholly with Robbins’ ideas concerning the cultural logics of Protestant Christianity, and likewise could explain Slagle’s finding, as many of her informants came from Protestant backgrounds and live in an American context, where that sort of revival narrative is a familiar trope.
168 Making heaven Processing the ikon of Our Lady of Walsingham out on the London street is done, after all, specifically to affect the wider population of England.
Summary This is a book about fabric. But as it plays out, fabric enfolds bodies and places, and helps make people and spaces. The book maintains a close focus on the materiality of Orthodox fabric in order to demonstrate how Orthodox Christians at St Æthelwald’s and abroad are able to work with materials within their religious devotion and formation as religious subjects. The process of becoming Orthodox is one wherein the person, body and soul, joins with external things in order to become ‘human’ and make heaven. As ‘anaphoric objects’, these potent anchors of imagistic chains such as relics and ikons are engaged with in various contexts, but they all work to form the religious subject as a subject within an inter-artefactual art domain, whereby the Orthodox Christian, by living in the material ecology of the holy, may be made into an ikon of Christ.
Epilogue All Saints Barking of the Spice Rack
I want to provide one final ethnographic account in this book. As much of the preceding discussion is located within sacred contexts of the temple or pilgrimage sites, I now return, as Chapter 2 does, to the home. The argument of the book is complete; it is shown that the indexical qualities of fabric allow it to take on anaphoric chains and enter into inter-artefactual relationships with(in) heaven, such that heaven can be made on earth, and persons can, ultimately, be transformed into saints. What this Epilogue does is provide one final explication of how this emergence of the sacred within the mundane plays out in quotidian environments. Heaven is not made only in temples and monasteries. It can also be made at home. It is, if I may be so bold as to venture, a mystery that the ephemerality and mutability of things allows a sort of rupture, literally a breaking forth, of the holy in mundane spaces. In discussing this final ethnography, I also offer a final resolution to the problematic presented in the Introduction, by providing a reason why the parishioners of St Æthelwald’s return each Sunday to make their temple in an Anglican building. While conducting household ethnographies, I often witnessed spaces within the home that accumulated sacred things. While all houses (or dorm rooms) had something that constituted a home altar or ikon corner, many also had secondary altars. In the home of one parishioner, Mary (who, as mentioned in Chapter 1, sings in the choir), for example, the primary space of devotion is arranged in the corner of Mary’s upstairs bedroom. It has an ikon of the Pantokrator and the Theotokos atop a small cabinet, along with three votive candles atop a lace doily and a blessing cross (a hand-held crucifix). Across the front of the cabinet hangs a curtain, behind which she keeps a vial of holy oil, a bottle of holy water, and spare candles. Close by on her bedside table she keeps her prayer book and komboskini (prayer rope). Elsewhere in the house ikons are present in almost every room (save the bathroom), but of particular note is a small collection in a windowsill under the staircase. Here, in what Mary has taken to calling her ‘chapel’, she has arranged five ikons, a hand censer, two candles set atop a doily, and a vase into which she places seasonal flowers from her back garden.
Figure E.1 Mary’s under-stair ‘chapel’.
A similar assemblage of sacred things grew up in my own kitchen shortly after, as mentioned previously, Joanna moved into the flat. In this case, I was able to watch as the altar was established, grew, and eventually spilled over, mixing among the kitchen utensils and spice rack. By the feast of St Catherine (25 November 2011), the assemblage in the kitchen had grown to a considerable size, as can be seen in Figure E.2. This collection had been building slowly, but, as can be seen in the photograph, had by this point in time become a compound layering of domestic mundane and sacred objects. When we moved in, in March 2011, the kitchen had no convenient place to store spices. So, we set up a small Ikea shelf for this purpose. The spices filled the three shelves, but there was no need for anything on the top –it was a convenient space for a lighter used for cooking, nothing more. Against the back, toward the stove, the oils and vinegars are stored. On the shelves are the herbs and spices used in cooking: the most common in the middle, the less common on the bottom, and the hotter ones on top. Shortly after moving in, Joanna also began to leave post on the second shelf. Most of the time, this was filtered out by day’s end; but one of the postcards I had sent my son while at Vatopedi in August 2011 stayed as a permanent fixture. The top of the rack had been empty, and quickly presented itself as an ideal location for ikons to accumulate. First came the ikon of St Nicholas (hidden here behind the ikon of St Catherine), who is the patron of travellers and a protector of small children. With this appeared the plastic bottle for holy water from Theophany, but as the assemblage enlarged, it was moved down
Figure E.2 A sacred bloom among the spices.
alongside the cayenne pepper, where it is seen in the photograph. For a brief period after my return from the monastery, the holy oil from the Pantanassa ikon was also set here, but was shortly moved to another room. Next after the ikon of St Nicholas came the postcard ikon of All Saints Barking, which Joanna had acquired on the second annual pilgrimage in May 2011, and the small ikon of the Nativity. At first, All Saints Barking was simply set on the shelf, leaning against the wall. Only later, after it became obvious that the heat and oil from the stove would damage the ikon, did Joanna acquire a glass frame for its preservation. The Nativity ikon is something Joanna found on a visit to Westminster (Roman Catholic) Cathedral and thought impossible (‘too horrid’ were her words) to pass up. It is a lenticular 3D holographic card showing two images of the Holy-Family-with- babe, shifting between them as the vantage point is shifted right to left. Toward mid-summer, Joanna added one votive candle, which she lit during the day to celebrate various saints’ feast days. Lighting a candle in this place, in the manner of proskynesis, served to establish this surface as a sacred space.
Figure E.3 All Saints Barking of the Spice Rack.
Soon after, a small dish was placed for flowers –the small aluminium cup had been a sauce dish, but Joanna found it quite adaptable for the use of holding flowers, and appropriated it for the makeshift kitchen altar. On the feast of St Catherine, as pictured, it was holding flowers Joanna had brought home from St Æthelwald’s after the celebration of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple (21 November). These flowers are the same ones that rest to the left of the rack, pushed into the space between the spice rack and the utensil jar. Around the Feast of the Entrance, the ikon print of the Theotokos appeared to the left of the spice rack. Joanna had received the ikon on a visit to a local Exarchate (the Russian Rite under the Œcumenical Patriarchate) parish, and when she brought her home, she first placed her on the other side of the kitchen, by the cutlery, but then, once the flowers were in place, she moved her to join the others. She is a print copy of the Our Lady of Kazan Ikon (Kazanskaya, Казанская) as hung in the Orthodox Church of
Epilogue 173 Saint Finnan and Saint Nicolas, Acharcle, Scotland. The reverse of the card asks the faithful to pray for the Exarchate, and individual clergy thereof in particular. She, Kazanskaya, is seen to be the protectress of Russia. For the feast of St Catherine, as she does for similar feasts, Joanna brought out one of the ikons from her own ikon corner to use as the festal ikon. Placing it in front of the flowers and ikons that reside there on a more permanent basis, she continued to make the space for the sacred festival by placing three tea candles in front of the small ikon. These she lit with the lighter kept on the third shelf, something that, as already mentioned, had originally been kept on the top of the rack for use during cooking. If the assemblage had been just the Nicholas or All Saints Barking ikon, or just the flowers, one might simply ascribe the ensemble to décor. But, even before the St Catherine ikon appeared on her feast day, an aggregate of religious paraphernalia had accumulated in the midst of mundane space. Not only are the ikons placed in a prominent place within the kitchen, but provision is made in order to preserve the ikons past the normative life span of their material components. The Nicholas and Nativity ikons are both plastic and do not need protection. The All Saints Barking, however, is simple postcard paper. As soon as this began to show signs of distress (wilting and the building up of oil grime), Joanna took a cue from how ikons are preserved in temples and shrines and placed it behind glass. Such preservation is typically done when the ecology (either human or otherwise) presents a danger to the longevity of the ikon. By bringing home the flowers used in the Feast of the Entry, Joanna furthers the festival space, letting the flowers which have become associated with the Entry (and thus blessed) continue to be in and fragrance a holy space. The small metal cup-turned-vase holds several flowers that have fallen from the larger bunch. This also does two things. First, it brings the flowers in front of the other ikons –a typical practice in the temple, wherein the whole ikonostasis is decorated, not just the ikon of the festal persona. This also reuses something that, though broken, cannot be rubbish. Having been blessed, the flowers –like the scraps mentioned in Chapter 8 –cannot simply be thrown out. These, however, do not need to be ritually burned, and so when they are no longer useful, they are removed to the garden or a wild place where, like antidoron crumbs, they will not come into contact with faeces or be trodden upon. While this holy assemblage is impressive, it should be remembered that this is not the main altar in the home. In the front room, which is used as both a dining and a living room, there is a collection of ikons on the eastern wall. Joanna also has a personal ikon corner in her room, with an ikon of Christ and the Theotokos, as well as a number of other ikons placed on various walls. The collection that appears here in the kitchen is a rupture within the otherwise mundane space of the household kitchen. It is not a room marked for prayer, and yet the slow accumulation of holy things (ikons) and devotional media (candles) opens up an alternative affective space within another.
174 Epilogue To use Gregg and Seigworth’s (2010) language, it is a ‘bloom-space’ –a potent affective space of transformation, but one that can be said to bloom forth within another one. The flat surface of the spice rack allowed the gradual collection of ikons, then flowers, holy oil, holy water, and candles. As the collection grew, it pushed the lighter down to the next shelf, and the utensil jar away from the rack. No longer was the small ikon shelf a thing fitting in where it could; rather, it began to push things away, down, and out in order to give appropriate space to the collection. In this bloom of the sacred within the mundane is a parallel to the arrangement of the temple in Chapter 3; however, here there is no fabric. In all the home altars I have seen, some element of fabric is involved. Often, as with Mary’s altar and ‘chapel’, a doily or tablecloth was present. Many wall- mounted ikon corners, such as Joanna’s, draped a ribbon or kerchief around a prominent ikon. Rarely did the informant articulate clearly why it was there; generally, it ‘felt right’ to have, or it ‘gave something extra’ to the space. These spaces within the home, however, are not transformed into an ikon of the universe as the temple is seen to be. Rather, these spaces of veneration within the home play host to the sacred within the living spaces of the parishioners. They facilitate a living-with-God, such that the day begins and ends with venerating the ikons. While the primary altars in the home usually include some element of fabric –which, consciously or subconsciously, appears to help create the space for the holy –the bloom of All Saints Barking of the Spice Rack is a rupture within the otherwise mundane space of the kitchen.
Diagram of St Æthelwald’s Parish Church
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16.
Holy Table Holy Altar Bema Seat Table of Prothesis Server’s Table Holy Doors Angel Doors Ambon Solea Choir and Reader Analogia and Ikons Analogion and Festal Ikon Main Entrance Water Basin Anglican Litany Desk and Chair Anglican Litany Desk
17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30.
Anglican High Altar Decorative Back to Anglican Altar, behind which is storage area Anglican Quire Stands Lady Chapel Anglican Pulpit Electric Organ Storage Closet Stairs to Loft, and storage area Pillars Anglican Baptismal Font Restroom Kitchenette Waiting Area Steward’s Office
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Aër a veil, usually the third and largest, set over the top of the chalice and diskos, used to shroud the gifts; it has a close symbolic association with the Holy Spirit Altar the area beyond the ikonostasis, into which there is only limited access; it is situated around the Holy Table Ambon the portion, often a raised step, directly to the west of the Holy Doors, from which the priest addresses the people and reads the Gospel Analogion (pl. analogia) a slanted plinth, usually covered in liturgical vestments, upon which an ikon is placed for veneration; the lectern, from which the Gospel is read, may also be called an analogion Anaphora lit. ‘offering up’; the portion of the Liturgy in which the Eucharist is blessed and consecrated Antidoron (pl. antidora) lit. ‘instead of gifts’; bread cut from the same loaf as that which is used in the Eucharist; antidoron is given to communicants and non-communicants alike Antimension lit. ‘instead of table’; a cloth ikon, signed by the bishop, giving permission to the parish to exist as a canonical Orthodox Christian parish Apophatic a mode of theological knowledge, also known as ‘the way of negation’, as it often phrases statements about God in the negative (e.g. God is not finite); it is the opposite of and sister to cataphatic theology, which seeks to make positive (affirmative) statements about God. Apophatic theology is typical of Orthodox Christianity, whereas cataphatic theology is more characteristic of Latin Christianity, particularly as developed in the scholastic period Archimandrite a dignity of the monastic priesthood; a hieromonk is usually made an archimandrite after some years in recognition of excellent service; it is a title given by the bishop and is marked usually with a larger koukoulion (monastic veil) and/or a more ornate pectoral cross; it is roughly equivalent to the dignity of archpriest among the married clergy Artoklasia a short liturgical service, often held on great feasts, to bless loaves of bread, which are then broken up and distributed to the people present Asterisk a metal cage, consisting of two intersecting arms, which is set over the diskos in order to protect the bread from the veil Athos, Mount autonomous monastic republic in northern Greece. This isolated peninsula has been inhabited by monks uninterruptedly since at least the 10th century and is considered one of the wellsprings of Orthodox piety and tradition due to its long historical presence and the reputation of saintliness among its inhabitants
188 Glossary Bishop the highest rank of clergy, seen to carry the apostolic succession of the Church, in direct unbroken line since Christ; each lower rank of clergy is ordained by the local bishop, and each parish is under his authority Calendar, old and new there is a split among Eastern Orthodox Christians concerning which calendar is used; many (notably most Slavic and monastic communities) use the Julian (old) Calendar, while others (notably the Greek and Antiochian communities) use the Gregorian (new) Calendar –save in the case of dates pertaining to the Paschal cycle, where the Julian dates are still used; the old and new calendars are, currently, 13 days apart Catechumen a person who is learning Orthodoxy in order to be received into the Church; also ‘catechism’, the lessons given, and ‘catechetical’, of or relating to the process Censer any variety of object used to burn incense; in a liturgical setting, it is usually a metal orb suspended by a set of chains from a handle, such that when filled with a lit charcoal briquette and incense, the censer may be swung around, filling the air with scented smoke Chalice a, usually metal, vessel for holding the Eucharist; usually shaped like a large (oversized) wine glass, with the bowl of the chalice resting upon a stem Chrismation a sacrament wherein the person, already baptised, is anointed with holy Chrism and thereby received into the Church. Chrism is a consecrated oil mixed with myrrh Clergy the ranks of priestly service within the Church; these are bishop, priest, deacon, subdeacon, reader, and acolyte or server Confession one of the Holy Mysteries, or Sacraments, of the Church; by which the penitent is loosed from the burden of sin Deacon the third rank of the ordained priesthood; helps the priest in the consecration of the Eucharist, leads the litanies from the solea Diocese the universal Church in one particular location, usually a city; a diocese is governed by a bishop Diskos a plate with a small pedestal, upon which the bread for the Eucharist is set during Proskomedia; it is often ornately marked with symbols of the Incarnation or crucifixion of Christ Ecclesiology the theology of the Church, concerning what she is spiritually, corporeally, hierarchically, and so on Epitaphios ikon on cloth, usually embroidered, depicting the dead body of Christ after his crucifixion; in liturgical use during the Holy Week leading up to Pascha Esorason (pl. esorasa) the inner rason; often a more fitted cassock-like tunic, usually black but may be any solid colour Exorason (pl. exorasa) the outer rason; a loose, flowing open tunic, usually black; modelled after what Ottoman philosophers would wear Haptic of or relating to the sense of touch, in present usage implying a close, visceral engagement with the object of perception, emphasising the way in which an object can be seen to be touching the subject Heterodox Christians who are not Orthodox, using a different form of worship; juxtaposed with ‘Orthodox’, meaning ‘right worship’ or ‘right belief’ Hieromonk a monk who has been ordained a priest; in the Orthodox Church, the majority of monks are not priests; they will generally only be ordained to serve the liturgical needs of their monastic community
Glossary 189 Holism an anthropological ideal and commitment to understanding a phenomenon within its broad context, from multiple perspectives; the idea that a better understanding is gained through getting the whole picture Holy Table the table in front of which much of the Liturgy is held; it is considered to be the throne of God Ikonostasis a rood screen separating the Altar from the nave; often it is quite large and ornate; at a minimum, it has an ikon of Christ and one of the Theotokos (usually holding the Christ child) Index in semiotics (the theory of signs and representation), an index is a sign that has a direct, causal relation to what it signifies, such as a footprint, or smoke; in Gellian theory, it is given a broader meaning, allowing anything that is interpreted to be the result of intention. Gell uses the term ‘index’ in order to avoid the word ‘art object’ Indexicality the quality of being an index, pointing to something beyond itself Isomorphy meaning ‘same form’, used to refer to the similarity in how different things are structured across different domains Kairon (prayers) the service of preparation which priests and deacons pray before vesting; they are said in front of the ikonostasis Katholikon the principal church in a monastery Kliros lit. ‘clergy’; in Antiochian usage, this Greek word is used for the liturgical furniture from which the chanters intone the Liturgy Lent the seven-week preparatory period before the ‘feast of feasts’, the Resurrection of Christ. During this time, Orthodox Christians abstain from certain foods, including animal products and wine, and increase time spent in prayer, especially in the special Lenten church services, and in the giving of alms to the needy; this is done to help purify and prepare themselves to receive the good news of the Resurrection of Christ from the dead Liturgy lit. ‘work of the people’; the service in which the Eucharist is consecrated and consumed; in Eastern Orthodoxy this is most commonly shorthand for ‘the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom’, though others do exist Logocentric having the word (logos) at the centre of one’s world view, used to denote the importance placed on the reading of the Bible and evangelistic preaching in many forms of Protestant Christianity Matins see Services Metaleptic of metalepsis; a rhetorical relation where a figure of speech is used in a new context Metania lit. ‘change of mind’, repentance; in common usage meaning the bow (half metania) or full prostration (full metania) performed by devotees in front of a holy object or person; it is usually coupled with the sign of the cross Metropolitan, see Bishop a high-ranking bishop, usually of a major city; sometimes having assistant bishops working under him Monastery a community of monastics living and praying together; a monastery may consist of as few as two or as many as several thousand people; they are normally autonomous single-sex communities under the governance of a single ‘Father’ or ‘Mother’, elected for life by the members; traditionally, Orthodox monasteries are dedicated to prayer and hospitality, but many are engaged in a diverse range of works Monastic, monk, nun monasticism is a way of life in the Orthodox Church whereby a person dedicates themselves exclusively to the service of God instead of marrying
190 Glossary and raising a family; usually monastics live in communities; there is a long probationary period, after which a person participates in a ceremony called a ‘tonsure’ and receives a new name and the black clothing of a monastic New Martyrs usually refers to people who were martyred for the Christian faith within relatively recent history; for example, during the Russian Revolution, or during the reign of the Ottoman Empire; may also be used to distinguish between martyred saints who share a name Paraklesis (service) lit. ‘personal urging’; a service of petition and veneration dedicated to a particular saint, most commonly (unless designated otherwise) the Theotokos Parish church community in one local area. Under the jurisdiction of the local bishop, a parish may be dedicated to a feast of the Church, or a particular saint, and have its own church premises for liturgical worship, as well as other buildings for community use Parish council elected council of lay members of a parish overseeing financial and administrative matters including, but not limited to, the payment of the priest(s); renting or mortgaging and upkeep of the church buildings; safeguarding of vulnerable members and children; and organising para-liturgical parish activities such as pilgrimages and fairs Patriarch, see Bishop the bishop of the central city within a regional Church; the manner of authority varies across the Orthodox Churches, but in most cases the Patriarch is the titular head of the Church, and rules the local Church with the support of a synod (conference) of brother bishops Proskomedia lit. ‘an offering’, used synonymously with prothesis; here used for the service of preparation of the bread, wine, and water before the Liturgy Proskynesis lit. ‘kiss toward’; an act of veneration, showing honour to –in the Orthodox context –usually a saint; used to describe the entire process of kissing the ikons and relics as one comes into the temple Prosphoron (pl. prosphora) lit. ‘offering’; a leavened loaf of bread, stamped with a seal showing various symbols associating it with the crucifixion; it is from this loaf, offered by a parishioner, that the Eucharist is taken and made; the remainder is cut and given as antidoron. In most English-speaking contexts, prosphora is used as both singular and plural Prothesis lit. ‘setting forth’, used synonymously with Proskomedia; also used for the table off to the side within the Altar, used to prepare the bread, wine, and water before the Liturgy; after the communing of the people, the Eucharist is returned to the prothesis table to be consumed Rason (pl. rasa) a tunic-like garment, usually open in the front and held closed by various techniques (depending on region of origin); similar to the Roman cassock; see also exorason and esorason Reader the lowest rank of ordained clergy; the man (and in some places woman) reads the epistle and often leads the chanters/choir Sayidna Arabic; an honorific used to designate a bishop, also connotative of affection Seraph a six-winged angel, said to be right before the throne of God Server or acolyte; an individual, not clergy, who helps in the services; they are usually vested in a sticharion Services apart from the Divine Liturgy, the Orthodox Church also keeps a daily cycle of church services based on the ancient Jewish hours of prayer. The cycle of the day begins at sunset with Vespers, the evening service; the following service,
Glossary 191 Compline, is prayed before retiring to bed. Matins may be prayed during the night or in the early morning; finally, the first, third, sixth, and ninth hours are at roughly 7 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m., and 5 p.m., respectively. The full cycle is kept by many monastic communities; the fullness and frequency of parish services vary widely depending on time and resources Skufos (pl. skufoi) a soft-sided hat, often velvet or linen; usually worn by clergy Solea the area around the ambon, toward the people, in which the priest stands to administer sacraments (such as the Eucharist and anointing) and give blessings (over the sick or those travelling); it is in this area that small altars are arranged for weddings, Chrismations, and memorial services Sticharion a tunic, usually decorated, worn by both clergy and those who serve in the Altar Stole any number of long widths of fabric used by clergy, in both Eastern and Western Christianity; usually draped around the neck, though some are wrapped around the body; the epitrachelion is one, as are the oraria (sg. orarion) of the deacons Subdeacon the second rank of the ordained priesthood; the man is able to handle the sacerdotal objects and help keep the Altar; some also sing the litanies of prayer from the solea Tabernacle an ornately decorated box, usually metal, which sits on the Holy Table; it is used to house a reserve of the Eucharist which can be used at periods of great need, such as last rites Talanton (often pronounced talando) a long, thin, carved wooden plank that, when beaten with a hammer, resounds with a certain set of tones; it is hit in monastic communities to signal times of the day such as call to prayer, work, rest, and so on Theophany lit. ‘revelation of God’, a feast falling on 6 January commemorating the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River; by contrast, the Western feast falling on the same date, known as Epiphany (‘revelation’), commemorates the visit of the Magi to the infant Christ Theotokos lit. ‘One who bore God’ or ‘Birth-Giver of God’; an official title given to Mary, the mother of Christ, at the Council of Ephesus (AD 431), affirming the theology concerning Christ, that he is both fully God and fully man Vespers, see Services
Æthelwald, parish of Saint: architecture of see architecture; demographic makeup of 22–28; Orthodox parish of 23, 41–44, 67–68, 118, 167 Agamben, Giorgio 91–92 agency 8–12, 102, 107, 135, 137, 146; material agency 5, 9–13 Agia Zone see Zone, Agia Ahmed, Sara 81 Alaska 84 Altar (area of Orthodox temple) 38, 42, 55–60, 63–73, 81, 97–99, 106, 111–112, 119–120, 122, 127, 129; altar vestments see vestments, altar altar (table): Anglican 54–56, 68, 77–79, 127, 131; home altar 46, 60, 109, 169–170, 172–175; Orthodox see Holy Table anaphora 41, 102 anaphoric: chain 40–41, 51–53, 76, 94, 125, 131, 162, 167; objects 161–163, 166–168 Ancient Faith Radio 108 Anderson, Christabel Helena 27, 60 Anglican 4, 22, 25, 28, 30, 32–33, 37, 44, 50–51, 54–55, 56, 58–60, 63, 66, 68–69, 72–73, 76–81, 83, 86–89, 106, 127, 131, 146, 149, 161, 169; see also Christianity, Protestantism Anglican-Orthodox relations 25, 30, 54–55, 66, 83 antidoron 45–46, 66, 69, 173 antimension 5, 66–73, 114, 127 Antiochian 4, 22–25, 30, 33, 42–43, 86, 88, 92, 95, 97, 118, 123–124 Antohin, Alexandra 72, 90, 109 apophatic symbolism see under symbolism architecture 3, 20, 32, 53–57, 75–81; Church architecture 53–57, 163–164 Aristobulus, Saint 19–20 Augé, Marc 72
Bakhtin, Mikhail xii Baptism 84, 87, 91–100, 106–114, 120, 133, 142, 167; garment of light 92, 96, 97, 98, 111, 112, 133, 148, 167; water for 92–93, 98–99, 107–110; see also Chrismation Barking Abbey 21, 49–50 bloom-spaces 70, 74–76, 81–82, 151, 169–174 Boas, Franz 10–11 body practice 68, 108 Boulos (Yazigi) of Aleppo, Metropolitan xi, 117 Bourdieu, Pierre 39, 81 bread 8, 41, 45, 55, 58, 65–66, 70, 99, 101–104, 126, 131, 146, 148, 154–155, 162–163 Bride of Christ, the Church as xviii, 71, 117 Buchli, Victor 8, 37, 40–41, 157 Byzantine chant 4, 26, 28, 155, 163 Campbell, John 3 Campbell, Shirley 8, 13, 24 candles xix–xx, 26, 36–37, 43, 54–55, 58, 68, 70, 76–78, 81, 92, 96–99, 110–112, 163, 167, 169, 171, 173–174 Carr, E. Summerson 3 cataract(s) (theory of materiality) 53, 82, 150, 162 catechumenate 21, 25, 39, 68, 70, 86–91, 95–96, 101, 105–106 Catherine, Saint 170, 172–173 Catsiyannis, Timotheos 21 chant see Byzantine chant children 28–29, 47, 99, 153, 170 Chris (parishioner) 53, 55–60, 63, 66–70, 81, 92, 109, 111, 127 Chrismation 84, 98–100, 107, 112, 114; see also Baptism
Index 193 Christ xviii, xix, 8–9, 14–16, 34, 36, 38, 45, 54–55, 57, 65–67, 71, 80, 89, 94, 96, 97, 99–104, 107–108, 111–112, 114, 117–119, 123–126, 128, 130–133, 136, 140, 142–149, 152, 156–157, 159–162, 165, 167–168, 173; see also God Christianity; Anglicanism see Anglican; Anthropology of xii–xiii, 1–3, 15; Latin see Roman Catholicism; Protestantism 15, 19, 33, 66, 84, 103, 167; Western 2, 41, 78, 84, 88, 97, 120, 143, 146, 147, 149 church-in-a-box 4–5, 55–58, 70, 92 Church of England see Anglican Church Slavonic see Slavonic Chrysostomos, Archimandrite 117–118, 123 Cincture of the Theotokos see Zone, Agia cognitive stickiness 9–10 Communion, Holy see Eucharist communion (fellowship) 35, 37, 102–103 Constantine, Emperor 164 conversion 28, 33, 83–88, 92, 107, 167; stories 85–88, 167 converts see conversion cross 58–59, 65–67, 71, 92, 98–99, 110, 118, 121–125, 131, 143–145, 148, 156, 160, 169; sign of the 3, 35–36, 44, 65, 68–69, 88, 97, 106, 108, 110–111, 129–130, 143, 160–161 crucifix see cross cultural appropriation 34 Danforth, Loring 106 death 12, 14, 24, 36, 38, 51–52, 76, 86, 91, 94, 96, 99, 105–109, 118–120, 123, 151–152, 157, 165; see also funerals Descola, Philippe 89 devil 65, 94 Dormition: contemporary parish in London 43; Feast of the D. 152 see also Metastasis; historical parish in London 21–22; Ikon of 152 Du Boulay, Juliet 3, 4, 106, 109 Dubisch, Jill 3–4 Durga 9 Durkheim, Emile 103 Easter see Pascha Eco, Umberto 7 Eliade, Mircea 38, 41, 72 Elizabeth (parishioner) 96 Elizabeth I, Queen 26 Emmett, Ayala 73–74
Engelke, Matthew 106 English language xvii, xviii, 4, 23, 25, 28, 43, 45, 52–53, 88, 98, 108, 151, 156–157 epigonation 118, 121–124, 127, 130, 144–145 epimanikia 118, 121–122, 127, 130, 144 epitaphios 57–58, 66 epitrachelion 114, 118, 120–123, 127, 129–130, 144, 147 Erkenwald, Saint 4, 49 esorason see rason Ethelburga, Saint 4, 49–50 Ethiopian nonconformist parish 30, 54 Ethiopian Orthodoxy 73, 90 Eucharist 33, 35, 39, 63, 101–104, 113; preparation of 55, 63–66 exorason see rason fabric 1, 5, 12–13, 24, 47, 57, 59, 66–76, 81–82, 93, 114, 117–118, 121–131, 133–134, 142–151, 157–162, 166–168, 174 Farsi Evangelical Church 87 Faubion, James 141–142 funerals: humanist 106; of Mary, the Mother of God 75, 151–153; Orthodox 52, 106; priestly 52, 106, 119; see also Metastasis Gabriel, Archangel 122, 128, 164 Gabriel, Father (priest) 24, 25, 51, 52, 58, 86, 106 Gabriel (Saliby), Metropolitan of Paris 22 garment of light , see Baptism Geertz, Clifford xiv Gell, Alfred 5–12, 20, 39–40, 76–77, 96, 107, 132–138, 140, 143, 161, 164–165 geography 15, 30–33, 45–47, 49–51, 53, 60, 72–75, 79–82, 103–104, 150, 153, 173 George, Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral parish of Saint 42, 43, 44, 111, 114 Gerontikon xiv, 74 Gherkin 26, 32; see also Architecture Gillquist, Peter 25, 83, 89 God xi, xii, xiii, xviii, 13–15, 16, 33, 36, 37, 39, 52, 67–68, 70–71, 74–76, 78, 85, 87–91, 94, 97, 103, 105, 107, 110–113, 118, 122, 127–131, 151, 153, 157, 159, 161–162, 166–167, 174 godparent 96, 99, 107, 111; godfather 95, 108; godmother 92, 95, 96, 98, 99, 108
194 Index Goltz, Hermann 2, 13 Gospels 19, 33, 36, 123, 124; liturgical use of the xii, 36, 66, 70–71, 93, 98 Hackett, Helen 26 hair 98–99, 112–113, 166; cutting of during reception into Church 98–99, 112–113; camel-hair belt see Zone, Agia Hann, Chris 2, 13 Harding, Susan Friend 3, 140 Harris, Jonathan 21 Harrison, Simon 34 Harry see Seraphim Harvey 4, 54–55, 68 Heaven 1, 8, 14–16, 24, 38, 51–52, 67–71, 76, 78, 93, 98, 106, 112, 118, 133, 148–149, 163, 166–168 Helena, Empress 164 Helena (parishioner) 92, 95–97, 99–100, 108 Henry VIII, King 19, 50 Hilarion (Alfeyev), Metropolitan of Volokolamsk 90 holy oil see oil Holy Spirit 41, 98, 110, 111, 125 Holy Table 37, 55, 58–59, 63, 65–73, 114, 117, 119, 125–127, 144, 147; consecration of 66–67, 72–73 holy water see water Hospitality of Abraham, ikon of 38–39, 41 Hugh-Jones, Stephen 135, 141 Husserl, Edmund 19–21, 135 icon (anthropological term) xviii, 12, 52, 104–105, 129, 131, 143, 146, 149, 162 ikon (Christian term) xii, xviii, xix, 1, 3, 6, 14, 16, 19, 22, 26, 35–41, 45–46, 49, 51–60, 65–74, 76, 78–84, 88, 90–91, 100–101, 104–111, 114, 117–119, 122–123, 127–129, 131–133, 142–152, 157–159, 161–174; human as 9, 105– 107, 159; of Our Lady of Walsingham 26, 51–52, 110, 168; of Pantokrator, 36, 45, 118, 169; paper prints 45–46, 171–173; of Resurrection of Christ 36, 58–59; see also specific saint by name ikonicity 100, 104–107, 118, 131–133, 142–143, 146 ikonography xvii, xviii, 24, 27, 80 ikonostasis xix, 56, 69–70, 78–80, 127–129, 156 immaterial 13–15, 73–74, 157–161
immigration; Analogy for conversion 88–89; to Britain of Orthodox Christians 21–22, 83 index (anthropological term) 1, 2, 5–10, 12–13, 40, 96, 104–105, 107, 114, 129, 131, 134, 136–137, 140–143, 146, 148–150, 157, 159, 161–162, 165, 167, 169; human 8–9 India 9, 153 indices see index Ingold, Tim 2, 11, 12, 13, 14, 74, 156–159, 161 Islam 34, 80, 85, 87, 89, 91, 96 Istavridis, Vasil 83 Izzo, Januarius 73 Jakobson, Roman 104–107 James, King (VII and II) 22 Jesus see Christ Joanna (parishioner) 33–37, 170–174 John, Anglican parish of Saint 32–33, 54 John Chrysostom, Saint 151, 156–157, 160 John (Maximovitch), Saint 106, 147 John (parishioner) 42–43 John the Baptist, Saint see St John the Forerunner John the Forerunner, Saint xix, 28, 36, 55, 57, 65, 128 Jones, Owen 77 Kan, Sergei 83–84, 87 Keane, Webb 3 kenosis 107, 137, 140–141, 159; of Christ 14, 107, 125, 131 Kieckhefer, Richard 78 kissing xx, 15, 35–37, 44, 58, 65, 88, 99, 106, 110, 129–131, 141, 145, 147, 155–156 Kligman, Gail 106 kolam 9 Köllner, Tobias 72–73 Küchler, Susanne 12–13, 96, 134 kumari see Durga Lambek, Michael 77 language(s) xvii–xviii, 3, 6, 12, 14, 21, 52, 74, 78, 88, 95, 102, 123, 136–137, 139, 146, 161, 174 languages in the Orthodox Church xvii–xviii, 23, 42–45, 53, 88, 97, 151, 156 Latin (language) xvii, 90 Lent xii, xvii, 36, 42, 44, 86, 94, 126, 142 Levi-Strauss, Claude 92
Index 195 light xix, xx, 4, 32, 54, 80, 92, 96–98, 107, 111–112, 119, 148, 161, 163–164, 167 Liturgy, Divine see Divine Liturgy Loudovikos, Nikolaos 103, 113 Malley, Brian 3 Maori 20, 40, 135 Mary (Mother of God) xviii, xix, 3, 15, 26, 36, 45, 47–48, 50–55, 66, 76, 100–111, 105, 128, 130, 151–154, 157–158, 162, 164–166, 172; belt of see Zone, Agia Mary (parishioner) 28, 69, 100, 169, 170, 174 Mary’s dowry, England as 26, 51–52 material culture i, 1, 6, 14, 16, 19, 21, 53, 60, 76, 133, 134, 138, 139, 150 materiality 1, 2, 4, 6, 10, 12, 15, 24, 40, 41, 51, 53, 74–75, 81–82, 138–139, 141–143, 148, 150, 156, 158–159, 161, 167–168 Mathewes-Green, Frederica 4, 83 metastasis 76, 151–152, 162, 166 Miller, Daniel 77 mind, extended 10, 20, 39–40, 134–135, 137–138, 140, 164 mind, secular of the city 32, 80 mind of the Church 21, 40, 86, 88, 147 monasteries; dissolution of 19–21, 50; Monastery of St. John the Baptist, Essex 24; Vatopedi see Vatopedi Morphy, Howard 11–13 Mother of God see Mary Mount Athos xi–xii, xviii, 45–49, 74, 92, 108, 117, 150–151, 153–157, 159; see also Vatopedi music see Byzantine chant Muslim see Islam mystagogy 65, 113 Naletova, Inna 107, 137 names 28, 100–101 Naumescu, Vlad 83, 107, 137 Niyousha-Christina (parishioner) 16, 39, 84–88, 89, 91–101, 104, 107–108, 110, 112–113, 117–118, 133, 136, 141–142, 146, 162, 165 oil 46, 47, 49, 84, 97–99, 107, 110–111, 114, 129–130, 133, 148, 150, 162, 164–166, 169, 171, 174 Orthodox Church: Presence in Britain 19–23, 83; in United States see United States
Paisios, Saint 74 Panagia xviii, 3, 47–48, 111, 157–158, 164, 171; Evangelistria, Tinos 3; Pandanassa 164, 111, 171; Paramythia 164; Vimatarissa 164; see also Mary Pantokrator xviii, 36, 45, 118, 145, 169 Pascha xii, xvii, 14, 23, 25, 42, 53, 56–58, 78, 86, 94, 112, 147 patristics 24, 28, 38, 84 patron saint see saint Peirce, Charles Sanders xviii, 6, 7, 104 Persian 87, 89, 96, 100, 107; converts to Orthodoxy see Niyousha-Christina personhood 134–142, 146–148 Peter, Tsar 22 phelonion 118, 123–125, 127, 130 pilgrimage 3, 15, 21, 23–24, 26, 29, 46–47, 49–51, 82, 104, 110, 151, 164, 169, 171 Pinney, Christopher 2, 5, 6, 40, 53, 82, 158 place see geography prayers xx, 35, 37, 41, 52, 58, 63, 65, 69–70, 73, 87, 98, 102, 109–111, 123, 125, 127–131, 145; Communion p. 35, 37; Kairon p. 63, 127–131; Vesting prayers of priests 16, 65, 122, 129 priest, priesthood xii, xv, xix–xx, 4, 9, 16, 21, 22, 24–27, 32, 36, 39–40, 42–45, 47–48, 52–54, 56, 58, 60, 63–66, 70–71, 77–78, 80, 83, 86, 88, 90–99, 106, 108–112, 114, 117–133, 136, 142–149, 156, 158–162; Orthodox understanding of priesthood 149 prototype 6–8, 20, 96, 104–105, 107, 146 public transport 31–32, 34–35, 80, 90 Rappaport, Roy 140 rason 63, 118–121, 127, 129 readership, intended xi, xiii–xiv relics 19, 45–51, 66–67, 73–74, 76, 106, 111, 139, 144–145, 150–151, 155–159, 161, 164–168 Resurrection xvii, 14, 36, 53, 58, 59, 94, 107, 153 Richard, King (II) 26 Robbins, Joel 84, 167 Robertson Smith, William 103 Roman Catholicism 3, 19, 78, 86, 97, 118, 146–147, 171; Great vs little tradition 3; Priesthood in 118, 146–147 Roman Empire, Eastern xx, 118, 121 Romanos (parishioner) 25, 28, 57, 63
196 Index sacred space 1, 5, 15–16, 32, 63, 66, 69–73, 76, 82, 150, 161, 171 Sahlins, Marshall 89, 102 Saint James, Greek Orthodox parish of 42–43, 45, 60 saint, patron 26–27, 36, 45, 100–101, 107, 165, 170; see also specific saints and parishes by name Sarakatsani 3, 109, 160 Schism, Great 19, 50 Seraphim (parishioner) 55–57, 86–87, 91–93, 95, 100–101, 164–166 Slagle, Amy 83, 84, 85, 167 Slavonic xvii, 19, 22, 53 Sourozh, Russian Orthodox Diocese of 43, 51 Spyridon of Trimythous, Saint 45, 164 Stewart, Charles 19, 50 sticharion xix–xx, 63, 118–122, 127, 129–130, 147 Strhan, Anna 3, 32–33, 38, 54, 78 Stromberg, Peter 84 symbol(s) xii, 15, 38, 95, 97, 104, 117, 135–136, 138–140; hair as 112–113; light as 111–112, 167; motivic 104–105, 107, 143; oil as 110–111; vestments as 118–126, 129–131, 144, 146; water as 107–109 symbolic interpretation 13, 122 symbolism xiii, 11, 104–106, 135; apophatic xii, 39 temple (Orthodox) 4–5, 15, 32, 35–41, 53–59, 66–73, 81–82, 118, 131 Theophan, Father (priest) 21, 24, 25–27, 39, 42, 51–52, 59–60, 63, 65, 69–71, 86–93, 95–99, 102–104, 108, 110–113, 119, 123, 126, 127–131, 142–144, 146–149, 161, 170 Theotokos see Mary; Cincture of the see Zone, Agia Tilley, Christopher 2 Tlingit see Alaska transformation 4–5, 8–10, 12, 15, 39, 53, 60, 65, 67–70, 72–76, 82–83, 91, 96, 99–100, 107, 114, 117, 119, 127, 131–133, 138, 142–144, 146, 148–151, 159, 161–162, 167, 169, 174 Trude, Adeline 32 Tsiaras, Alexander 106
Ugolnik, Anthony 4, 136 United States 3, 7, 23, 25, 27–28, 45, 47, 49, 83–84, 167; Orthodox Church in 25, 45, 83–84, 110, 167 van de Port, Mattijs 75–76, 78, 140 Vatopedi, Holy and Great Monastery of xviii, 15–16, 47–48, 74, 76, 110–111, 145, 151–152, 154, 156, 160, 164, 170 veiling: of head in church by Orthodox women 34–35 veils xix–xx, 34, 35, 37, 63–65, 72–73 Venus, Rokeby 7–8 Verkaaik, Oskar 75–76 vesting see vestments vestments 117; altar 53, 68, 70–72, 93, 117; priest’s 117–127, 129–132; temple 53, 58 Vilaça, Aparecida 102 virtuosity 10–11, 165 visual xii, 4, 6–8, 11, 37–38, 52, 56, 71, 72, 78, 80, 82, 93, 98, 106, 131, 134, 142–144; field 52, 56, 71, 82, 144 Wagner, Roy xiii, 15, 134–140 Walsingham: Little Walsingham, Norfolk 50, 65, 110; Our Lady of Walsingham 21, 26–27, 50–52, 110, 168 Ware, Timothy (Kallistos) 4, 39, 83 Warnier, Jean Pierre 8, 138–142, 146 water, holy: Anglican 51, 77; Orthodox 51, 71, 97–98, 108–109, 111, 169–170, 174 West, Krista 53, 73, 108 Whitehead, Amy 3, 89 worship (Orthodox) i, xii, 1, 4–5, 14, 16, 23–24, 36–37, 47, 73, 76, 80–81, 83, 91, 114, 118, 120, 132, 142; difference from heterodox 33, 56, 77–80; polyphony of xii; tactility of 3, 5, 20, 37, 73, 89, 165 Yannaras, Christos 161 zone (vestment) 118, 121–123, 127, 129–131, 144 Zone, Agia 47–48, 76, 110–111, 150–159, 162–164, 166–167