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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The East-West schism

Some strange scenes on television yesterday - believers singing and dancing in the river Tundzha, as they celebrate Epiphany day in the town of Kalofer, Bulgaria. Inspired by the music of a folk orchestra and by homemade plum brandy, they danced a slow “mazhko horo,” or men’s dance, stomping on the rocky riverbed. Led by the town’s mayor, a bass drummer and several bagpipers, the men danced for nearly an hour, up to their waists in the cold water, pushing away chunks of ice floating on the river.Traditionally, an Eastern Orthodox priest throws a cross in the river and it is believed that the one who retrieves it will be freed from evil spirits that might have troubled him. Across Bulgaria, young men also jumped into rivers and lakes to recover crucifixes cast by priests in an old ritual marking the feast of Epiphany and the baptism by John the Baptist of Jesus Christ when the latter was 30 years old.

The great It’s about Time painting blog gives us some historical and aesthetic background on how the schism between the Eastern and Western parts of Christianity have affected the celebrations at this time of year -
in Western Christianity, the arrival of the Magi at the site of Jesus' birth is called the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated on January 6. The Orthodox Church commemorates the Adoration of the Magi on the Feast of the Nativity on December 25 – and January 6th apparently marks the baptism by John the Baptist of Christ when the latter was 30 years old.
Western paintings of the Journey and the Adoration of the Magi usually depict 3 Magi, represented as kings, travelling to find the newborn Jesus in a stable by following a star; laying before him gifts of gold, frankincense, & myrrh; & lingering to worship him. Christian iconography has considerably expanded the simple biblical account of the Magi given in Matthew (2:1-11). The early church used the story to emphasize the point that Jesus was recognized, from his earliest infancy, as king of the earth and therefore showed the Magi with eastern garb.
The Its about Time blog shows how the early renaissance versions showed the garb of the Magi with Eastern traces - which vanished in the later versions. An early example of people being whitewashed out of history.

From the summer, I've been referring to the disturbing events taking place in Hungary. They are well summarised in the EuroTribune website and in this Eurozine piece.
Eurozine is a network of European cultural magazines - sometimes a bit pretentious but always with a distinctive voice. The latest issue has a series of articles on the European crisis and also an article which promised to be an overdue critique of the role which EU Structural Funds have played in developing and sustaining the clientilism and corruption of souther europe but which, sadly deteriorated into a rather incoherent, if still interesting, perspective on modern Greece.

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