Those reformation British envoys landed in the Eastern Church and what they say would have been Mad Max-esque…
In no way what so ever.
But only because it wasn’t a dessert and there weren’t cars. How do post apocalyptic people get ahold of so much gasoline….? I mean have you seen water world…
When the British landed, what they probably saw was a place that had been ravaged by war for centuries. Not so unlike the rest of Europe, but this area was deeply impoverished by destruction of trade networks for ages. Muslims and Christians had been fighting all over the place for centuries.
Now, I haven’t gone back and combed to figure out where these envoys landed, so what I am sharing about comes mostly from secondary literature. And what I have read focused more on the state of the church in the East.
The church was lead by patriarchs with largely hereditary titles, and most of the clergy were uneducated.
The church performed social functions with liturgy that most could barely read and even when they could read it, there was no comprehension of the deeper meaning. This is the equivalent of reading Shakespeare with a third grade reading comprehension level, even a eight or a college age reading comprehension would be too low to get a full appreciation of a good sonnet or one of the better placed soliloquies.
And even the third grade reading level might be over estimating some of the priests.
Sure they could recite the liturgy, but they couldn’t teach about meaning behind what the rituals were. It reminds me of some of the critiques going on now about Catholics and Mainline churches have too much empty ritual.
Most of their libraries were in shambles – I’m sure they sold boxes of books off to get them out of there, and the English just stepped up their game in having the best patristics (Early Church) sections imaginable.
The catholics were sending envoys as well along with the calvinists. These were offering money and resources and education so that they could reconnect with their roots. It was almost the same offer the British were making. Eastern Orthodox clergy were able to go and get education in other spots.
Of course, now they have systems of education available. But then, nothing could really compare to what the French and English Universities were accomplishing nor what the Jesuit Schools could do.
And I’m not sure why. They had monasticism, but for some reason, these monastic communities did not develop along the lines of their western counterparts. It’s this weird reality that the architecture and the development of systems of education did not occur in parallel lines. The isolation of the East or something like that.
This however brings us back to the point I made a few days ago – we are possibly moving into an era where the instruction or knowledge on who God is and what the practices of being a Christian are – those means of grace – are declining.
And while there is hope in the church that is emerging in Latin America, Asia, and Africa and hope in the lack of isolation, it is possible that instruction like that of Anthony of Egypt or of Father Zosima will be the norm – The Holy Spirit speaking great wisdom and insight through uneducated men.
England had to eventually go home with just the books – the corruptions and the demands of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs just didn’t sit well.