Praxis (Byzantine Rite)

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Praxis, a transliteration of the Greek word πρᾶξις (derived from the stem of the verb πράσσειν, prassein "to do, to act"), means "practice, action, doing". [1] More particularly, it means either:

  1. practice, as distinguished from theory, of an art, science, etc.; or practical application or exercise of a branch of learning;
  2. habitual or established practice; custom. [2]

Orthodoxy and orthopraxis

Eastern Christian writers, especially those in the Byzantine tradition, use the term "praxis" to refer to what others, using an English rather than a Greek word, call practice of the faith, especially with regard to ascetic and liturgical life.

Praxis is a key to understanding the Byzantine tradition, which is observed by the Eastern Orthodox Church and some Eastern Catholic Churches. This is because praxis is the basis of the understanding of faith and works as conjoint, without separating the two. The importance of praxis, in the sense of action, is indicated in the dictum of Saint Maximus the Confessor: "Theology without action is the theology of demons." [3] [4] [5]

Union with God, to which Eastern Christians hold that Jesus invited man, requires not just faith, but correct practice of faith. This idea is found in the Scriptures (1 Cor 11:2, 2 Thes 2:14) and the Church Fathers, and is linked with the term praxis in Byzantine theology and vocabulary. In the context of Orthodoxy, praxis is mentioned opposite theology, in the sense of 'theory and practice'. Rather, it is a word that means, globally, all that Orthodox do. Praxis is 'living Orthodoxy'.

Praxis is perhaps most strongly associated with worship. "Orthopraxis" is said to mean "right glory" or "right worship"; only correct (or proper) practice, particularly correct worship, is understood as establishing the fulness glory given to God. This is one of the primary purposes of liturgy (divine labor), the work of the people. Some Byzantine sources maintain that in the West, Christianity has been reduced "to intellectual, ethical or social categories," whereas right worship is fundamentally important in our relationship to God, forming the faithful into the Body of Christ and providing the path to "true religious education." A "symbiosis of worship and work" is considered to be inherent in Byzantine praxis.

Fasting, another key part of the practice of the Christian faith, is mentioned as part of Byzantine praxis, in connection with the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 6), and in comparison with the history and commemorations of Lenten fasts.

Praxis may also refer to proper religious etiquette.

Corresponding terminology in Latin Christianity

In the Latin Church, parallel ideas of asceticism and worship exist. The word used in this regard is the regular English word "practice", since in English the term "praxis" is not normally used in this sense.

The simplest and most common understanding of the term "practising Catholic", a minimal interpretation of the phrase, is that the person has been baptized (or canonically received into full communion with the Catholic Church) and strives to observe the Church's precept of attending celebration of the Mass or Divine Liturgy on Sundays and holy days of obligation. [6] Someone who does not fulfil even this minimum requirement for being considered "practising" is referred to as a lapsed Catholic.

A more ample indication of what practice involves is given in a statement by Bishop Luc Matthys of Armidale, New South Wales, Australia. [7] Living the Catholic faith involves much more than the minimum requirements referred to above.

Matters such as fasting have applications that vary according to place and according to the autonomous particular Church to which a person belongs. In each of the Eastern Catholic Churches, practice is generally the same as in the associated Eastern Church with which it is not in full communion. Thus, practice in the Eastern Catholic Churches of Byzantine Rite is identical with that described above for the Churches that constitute the Eastern Orthodox Church, but differs from that of, for instance, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Within the Latin Church too, there are variations in such matters in accordance with rules laid down by the episcopal conferences in view of local conditions and traditions.

Modern meaning of "praxis"

In English the word "praxis" is more commonly used in the sense not of practice but with the meaning given to it by Immanuel Kant, namely application of a theory to cases encountered in experience or reasoning about what there should be as opposed to what there is: this meaning Karl Marx made central to his philosophical ideal of transforming the world through revolutionary activity. [8] Inspired by Marxism, proponents of Latin American liberation theology have used the word "praxis" with specific reference to human activity directed towards transforming the conditions and causes of poverty. Their "liberation theology" consists then in applying the Gospel to that praxis to guide and govern it. [9]

See also

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Worship act of religious devotion

Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. An act of worship may be performed individually, in an informal or formal group, or by a designated leader. Such acts may involve honoring.

Greek Orthodox Church Orthodox Christian denominations descended from a Greek cultural tradition

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Orthodoxy adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion

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Closed communion

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Christian Church Term used to refer to the whole group of people belonging to the Christian religious tradition.

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Orthopraxy Correct conduct

In the study of religion, orthopraxy is correct conduct, both ethical and liturgical, as opposed to faith or grace etc. This contrasts with orthodoxy, which emphasizes correct belief, and ritualism, the practice of rituals. The word is a neoclassical compound—ὀρθοπραξία (orthopraxia) meaning 'correct practice'.

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Christian worship act of attributing reverent honor and homage to God

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Eucharistic theology branch of Christian theology

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Catholicity is a concept pertaining to beliefs and practices widely accepted across numerous Christian denominations, most notably those that describe themselves as Catholic in accordance with the Four Marks of the Church, as expressed in the Nicene Creed of the First Council of Constantinople in 381: "[I believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."

Eastern Orthodox theology is the theology particular to the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is characterized by monotheistic Trinitarianism, belief in the Incarnation of the essentially divine Logos or only-begotten Son of God, a balancing of cataphatic theology with apophatic theology, a hermeneutic defined by a polyvalent Sacred Tradition, a concretely catholic ecclesiology, a robust theology of the person, and a principally recapitulative and therapeutic soteriology.

History of Eastern Christianity

Christianity has been, historically a Middle Eastern religion with its origin in Judaism. Eastern Christianity refers collectively to the Christian traditions and churches which developed in the Middle East, Egypt, Asia Minor, the Far East, Balkans, Eastern Europe, Northeastern Africa and southern India over several centuries of religious antiquity. It is contrasted with Western Christianity which developed in Western Europe. As a historical definition the term relates to the earliest Christian communities and their long standing traditions that still exist.

Theological differences between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church

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Sacrament sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance

A sacrament is a Christian rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites. Many Christians consider the sacraments to be a visible symbol of the reality of God, as well as a channel for God's grace. Many denominations, including the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed, hold to the definition of sacrament formulated by Augustine of Hippo: an outward sign of an inward grace, that has been instituted by Jesus Christ. Sacraments signify God's grace in a way that is outwardly observable to the participant.

History of Eastern Orthodox theology

The history of Eastern Orthodox Christian theology begins with the life of Jesus and the forming of the Christian Church. Major events include the Chalcedonian schism with the Oriental Orthodox miaphysites, the Iconoclast controversy, the Photian schism, the Great Schism between East and West, and the Hesychast controversy. The period after the Second World War saw a re-engagement with the Greek, and more recently Syriac, Fathers that included a rediscovery of the theological works of St. Gregory Palamas, which has resulted in a renewal of Orthodox theology in the 20th and 21st centuries.

References

  1. Online Etymological Dictionary
  2. Praxis definition
  3. Virginia Fabella, Sergio Torres (editors), Doing Theology in a Divided World (Orbis Books 1985 ISBN   978-0-88344197-8), p. 15
  4. Paul W. Chilcote, Wesley Speaks on Christian Vocation (Wipf and Stock 2001 ISBN   978-1-57910812-0), p. 67
  5. Mission among Other Faiths: An Orthodox Perspective
  6. Catholic Schools and the Definition of a "Practising Catholic"
  7. What distinguishes a practising Catholic? Archived 2010-10-25 at the Wayback Machine
  8. Simon Blackburn, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN   0-19-861013-0), pp.287-288
  9. D. A. Lane, "Praxis" in New Catholic Encyclopedia 2003