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:

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  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.

Eastern Christianity Christian traditions originating from Greek- and Syriac-speaking populations

Eastern Christianity comprises church families that developed outside the Occident, with major bodies including the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches, and the denominations descended from the Church of the East. The Ukrainian Lutheran Church is also an Eastern Christian church that uses the Byzantine Rite. The term is used in contrast with Western Christianity, although its scope has been one of continual discussion. Eastern Christianity consists of the Christian traditions and churches that developed distinctively over several centuries in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Malabar coast of South India, and parts of the Far East. The term does not describe a single communion or religious denomination. Some Eastern churches have more in common historically and theologically with Western Christianity than with one another. The various Eastern churches do not normally refer to themselves as "Eastern", with the exception of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East.

Byzantine Rite Whole of the worship life of the Eastern Catholic Churches

The Byzantine Rite, also known as the Greek Rite or Constantinopolitan Rite, is the liturgical rite used by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Greek/Byzantine Catholic churches, and in a modified form, Byzantine Rite Lutheranism. Its development began during the fourth century in Constantinople and it is now the second most-used ecclesiastical rite in Christendom after the Roman Rite.

Asceticism lifestyle of frugality and abstinence of various forms, often for spiritual goals

Asceticism is a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from sensual pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals. Ascetics may withdraw from the world for their practices or continue to be part of their society, but typically adopt a frugal lifestyle, characterised by the renunciation of material possessions and physical pleasures, and time spent fasting while concentrating on the practice of religion or reflection upon spiritual matters.

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]

Byzantine Empire Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe. Both the terms "Byzantine Empire" and "Eastern Roman Empire" are historiographical terms created after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire, or Romania (Ῥωμανία), and to themselves as "Romans".

Eastern Orthodox Church Christian Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 200–260 million baptised members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods, although roughly half of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Russia. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Bishop of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops. As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East.

Eastern Catholic Churches autonomous, self-governing particular Churches in full communion with the Pope

The Eastern Catholic Churches or Oriental Catholic Churches, also called the Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, and in some historical cases Uniate Churches, are twenty-three Eastern Christian particular churches sui iuris in full communion with the Pope in Rome, as part of the worldwide Catholic Church. Headed by patriarchs, metropolitans, and major archbishops, the Eastern Catholic Churches are governed in accordance with the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, although each church also has its own canons and laws on top of this, and the preservation of their own traditions is explicitly encouraged. The total membership of the various churches accounts for about 18 million, according to the Annuario Pontificio, thus making up about 1.5 percent of the Catholic Church, with the rest of its more than 1.2 billion members belonging to the Latin Church, also known as the Western Church or the Roman Catholic Church.

Union with God, to which 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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History of the Eastern Orthodox Church

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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

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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.

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