Art, Orthodox Mission, and Papadiamandis

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Thank you all (Ken, as well as those who emailed!) for sharing your experiences. It was interesting and instructive to hear your stories.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts (and in the last post!), my personal experience was that non-liturgical art created by Orthodox folk played a significant role in my conversion to Orthodoxy. The question then arises…why was this a decisive aspect for me? The question I have for others is: is my experience unusual, or did you experience something similar?

Personally, at the time I was completing a BA and had studied academic theology at an Evangelical Protestant college. I was tired of academic arguments and dry Biblical interpretations. It was into this backdrop that Evagrius of Pontus’s celebrated saying, “the one who prays is a theologian; the one who is a theologian, prays,” rang particularly true: I intuitively understood that without an active prayer/spiritual life one cannot be a theologian.

It seems unsurprising (to me, at least!) that my conversion to Orthodoxy would be influenced by the stories of others who had faith/prayer/spiritual lives and who experienced God’s grace. Absent personal experience, the stories of the faith of others is a source of encouragement and faith.

My hope is that my experience is universal. At the heart of Protecting Veil’s mission is the impetus to tell stories of faith…authentic stories that inspire, edify, and educate. It is for this reason that we undertook the translation and publication of Professor Anestis Keselopoulos’s study of Alexandros Papadiamandis, Greece’s Dostoevsky, The Theological Vision of Alexandros Papadiamandis.

I first read Greece’s Dostoevsky for a class in pastoral theology at Aristotle University in Thessalonica, Greece. I was attracted to the book because unlike many (most?) theological books, it is not dry and boring.

Dr. Keselopoulos addresses issues that are at the heart of Church life, issues that are of particular concern to the Church in America and in the rest of the diaspora. Rather than addressing these issues detached from actual life, Keselopoulos bases his ideas on examples taken from Papadiamandis’s stories.

Highly regarded as both a theologian and a writer of fiction, Papadiamandis wrote stories that are entertaining, moving, and profoundly theological. That said, his stories are not simple parables, they are not simply an excuse for making theological points. Rather, like Dostoevsky, Papadiamandis shows that theology is not something abstract, detached from the “real world.” Theology is lived and living…it is knit into the fabric of life.

Please stay tuned as we move towards publication of Greece’s Dostoevsky…and tell your friends and family about it, too!

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