Daily Archives: 10 October 2007

Interview with the Indonesian Archimandrite

Ever wonder about the Orthodox Church in Indonesia? Yeah, me neither. But I just came across this interview with Archimandrite Daniel D. B. Byantoro of the Gereja Ortodoks Indonesia. Here’s the lead-in (with a few editorial corrections) and one excerpt about the Archimandrite’s theological approach in Indonesia:

Orthodoxy was first established in Indonesia in Batavia, Java, as a parish of the Harbin Diocese in accordance with the Ukase of the Harbin Diocesan Council of November 23, 1934, № 1559. In the late 1940s, the parish was under the omophorion of Archbishop Tikhon of San Francisco. Unfortunately, after the Dutch relinquished their powers to the local leadership, many of the Russian parishioners fled during this period of civil unrest, and eventually the parish closed in the early 1950s, when its rector Fr Vasily immigrated to the USA.

The following is an online interview conducted by orthodox.cn with Fr. Dionysios (and his wife Presbytera Artemia Rita), one of the six newly ordained priests in Indonesia….

Theologically speaking, Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro also used the existing thought patterns of Indonesian culture to package Orthodox teaching within the Indonesian mental set up. Just as the Church Fathers had to face Greek paganism, Judaism, and Gnosticism in order to present the Gospel intelligibly to ancient peoples, Orthodox theology faces similar challenges in the context of the Indonesian mission.

Those challenges are:

  1. The Islamic strand that has similarities with Judaism.
  2. The Hindu-Buddhistic strand that has similarities with Greek paganism.
  3. The Javanese-mystical strand called “Kebatinan” (the “Esoteric Belief”) that has similarities to Gnosticism. (It is a blend of ancient shamanistic-animism on the one hand and Hindu-Buddhistic mysticism and Islamic Sufism on the other, and is divided into many mystical denominations and groups, just like Gnosticism was.)
  4. The secularistic-materialistic strand of the modern world.

The first three strands have made the Indonesian people intensely religious. Into this religious and theological climate, the Patristic approach to ancient Greek paganism, Judaism and Gnosticism has provided, for the present writer, a paradigm to deal with all those strands inherent in Indonesian culture. In this regard, Orthodoxy must build trust among religions in Indonesia before it can have any significant influence. By maintaining a harmonious relationship with other religions existing in the country, Orthodoxy can contribute toward combating the pernicious influence of materialistic secularism.

In term of Orthodox religious practices, there are religious practices that cannot be described as belonging to any particular religion in Indonesian culture. They are practiced all over Indonesia, and although they have many different names and some slight variations in practice, they basically have the same pattern. These practices include fasting, ascetic labor, communal meals, prayer for the dead, and the keeping of relics. Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro had to deal with these cultural religious practices carefully, in order that Orthodoxy be acceptable to the Indonesian people.

For example, the practice of sitting on the floor for religious purposes is adopted in the worship of the Church in Indonesia. “Coned rice” instead of kolyva is used for commemorating the dead, since Indonesians do not eat bread as their main staple and do not grow wheat. The prayer of the Trisagion is used to replace the traditional Indonesian practice of honoring departed ancestors. Women wear veils in the Church, as was traditionally done by Orthodox people, but also conforms to the idea of the pious woman in the Indonesian culture. Icons and relics, with a right Orthodox and biblical understanding, have replaced amulets and heirlooms. Communal meals are usually done during festivities in the Church, as well as during Lent, where everybody breaks their fast together in the Church after Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. Some cultural symbolism has been adopted as well for the usage of the Church, such as the usage of young coconut leaves for decorating the Church building during festivals and feasts.

via Slainte, which looks to be an interesting new blog

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