Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sometimes I Think we Just Confuse Old with Tradition

Today’s topic from the 40 Days Blogging Challenge is “Oil Lamps." Following the ancient tradition of the Temple as commanded by God, Orthodox Christians bring an offering of olive oil to be burned in the Church lamps continually serving as a reminder of the presence of the Light of God.
And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually (Exodus 27.20)

Although olive oil has been offered to God for centuries, millennia actually, many Churches today have electric lamps in front of Icons and Icon Screens. Many have told me that this is done mainly for safety reasons, and quite frankly there have been TOO many Church fires this year. But is electric ok when it comes to the Church?

Allow me to take this topic in a different direction…Is it ok to swap ancient practices with new technology? Isn’t that all electric lights accomplish? Would God have commanded the Temple lamps to have 100 watt light bulbs if He could? There is something to be said about the offering part of the oil lamps, but aside from a parishioner bringing the oil, the PURE oil, as a gift to God; could the offering not be a check to cover the bulb and electricity? It’s not like WE press the olive oil, right?

I have to admit, as much as I prefer the original, I’m not sure where I draw the line. I do think there is a benefit to the discipline of lighting the oil lamps in the Church every morning. We maintain six in our Church, and there is a blessing in the daily practice, and prayers, of lighting the lamps, especially if you can remember that EVERY offering to God is an offering of prayer and devotion to God.

So, I’ll keep the oil lamps in our Church. We also have several electric lamps on the Icon Screen, which are “on” 24 hours a day, so I’m definitely NOT a purest when it comes to this issue. I was told once that an oil lamp is “alive” rather than dead electricity, but I’m not sure I buy that argument. The last time I stuck my finger in an electric socket, it felt pretty alive to me! Yes....I HAVE done that.

A few other examples of the “technology swap” include:
  • Chanter stands with computer screens replacing traditional books
  • Paraffin candles replacing pure beeswax
  • Icons on canvass rather than painted on the wall
  • Electronic or digital bells and speakers replacing bell towers

 Sometimes I think we Orthodox confuse “old” with Tradition.
This post is written for the 40 Days of Blogging Challenge sponsored by the Preachers Institute. You may find other blogs participating in this challenge. I hope you enjoy this year’s Advent journey.

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