Wednesday, April 26, 2006

God Is with Us

Another song I heard for the first time in the past month or so was during the Annunciation service of Great Compline. It was probably the first time I'd been to a Great Compline service for anything, or maybe just the first time I'd noticed the song. Perhaps the way it was sung in this small Russian parish. Anyway, you can find the complete text and an audio clip on GOArch. It doesn't sound quite as triumphant in this Greek recording, but it's still pretty good.
God is with us!
Understand this, O nations, and submit yourselves!
For God is with us. . . .
It's all taken more or less directly from Isaiah, but it made me think of the Byzantine imperial court or the Russian crosses that sit on top of a crescent, indicating the victory over the Tatars.

I should clarify, though, that in general the Orthodox relationship with Islam is somewhat better than we tend to find in the West. Of course, there are plenty of Orthodox here in America who track more or less with the foreign policy landscape around them. But many Orthodox recognize that treatment of Eastern Christians under the Ottomans was generally better than under Western invaders. There are Orthodox Palestinians who belong to Fatah and Hamas and who blame what persecution they do face from their Muslim neighbors on spillover animosity from Western interference. (The situation is not unlike that of Arab Jews, whose situation has noticeably worsened with the rise of the Israeli state.) Russia has a long history of coexistence between Christians and Muslims. The Tatar invasion preceded the Moscow Patriarchate; and even though the Russian state opposes militant Islamic nationalism within its borders, it works hard, together with the Orthodox Church, to foster tolerance and cooperation between the traditional religions. Russia also stands out from Western nations in its cooperative stance toward Hamas in Palestine and Iran.

I don't want to oversimplify the relations between Orthodox and Muslims throughout the world; but my point here is simply to say here that, even though Orthodox traditions may celebrate political dominance, most Orthodox lands have at one point or another been under Muslim rule. As a result, many Orthodox have learned over centuries to coexist with their Muslim neighbors and to sympathize with them in their common struggle against Western imperialism.

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