Friday, August 26, 2011

Dracula is Dead and the Romanian Orthodox Church is Alive

I've just finished Sheilah Kast and Jim Rosapepe's book Dracula is Dead. The subtitle is a nice summary of the general format and tone of the book: How Romanians survived Communism, ended it, and emerged since 1989 as the new Italy

Of particular interest to me and readers of this blog will be an outsider's observations on the resurgence of the Romanian Orthodox Church and its vitality among young people today. 

A fascinating part of the book recounts how Patriarch Teoctist describes all the challenges the Romanian Orthodox Church had faced long before, during, and then after the fall of communism. The Church had been impoverished in the period of Monarchy and then marginalized in the period of communism. But what fascinates me is to imagine Teoctist, born in 1915, facing the challenge of leading the Romanian Orthodox Church into what Western Christians sees as the greatest crisis since Roman Persecution--Modernity and Apathy:

"And now we're going through a different type of change--democracy and pluralism, which is very different from what we had before: dictatorship and cult of personality. Now it's this confrontation between ideas. The difference is extraordinary." (p. 39)

I stood in line in 90 degree heat for five hours in 2007 for the chance to kiss the hand of the departed Patriarch Teoctist. He deserved my devotion because no matter what sad compromises the bishops had to make under communism, they managed to preserve something that transcended it. Vocations to the monastic life are thriving in Romania. The Churches are full on Sunday with people of every age. 

In fact, my recent discussion with Father Picioruș, who runs Theology for Today (Teologie Pentru Azi), convinces me that the Romanian Orthodox Church has actually managed to sidestep Western Modernism entirely and emerge in the period of Post-Modernism with a compelling strength.

Do read Dracula is Dead if you want to learn more, not only about modern Romania, but also to get an idea of why Orthodoxy there is experiencing what Newman called the Second Spring.

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