A Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy by Nicon D. Patrinacos

Title: A Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy
Author: Nicon Patrinacos
Publisher: Light and Life Publishing Co.
Place and Date of Publication: June 1984
ISBN: 9995052725
Price: $24.95 (plus S&H)
Description: paperback, 391pp.
Availability: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Department of Religious Education: 1-800-566-1088; or order online at http://www.goarch.org/en/archdiocese/departments/religioused

Highly recommended for Orthodox Christians who are interested in a greater and deeper knowledge of their faith. Contains a wealth of theological information and inspirational explanations compiled as an encyclopedic dictionary. An English-Greek index makes it easy to look up key words.

A brief review of this reference book appeared on page 5 of the June 13-26, 2004 issue of The Orthodox Way (St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church of Seattle, WA):

Summer is around the corner, and many families will be leaving for vacations. The kids will take along books from their schools’ reading lists. Parents will have the latest novels and biographies. It is also a good idea to take along one book from the St. Demetrios bookstore. This year, we recommend Fr. Nicon’s classic, A Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy. All family members will find it useful and informative. Fr. Nicon has entries, for example, on why Easter eggs are red (symbolic of the blood of Christ), the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (which we sing throughout the year), and how the date of Easter is calculated. Since the children and friends often ask questions about the Orthodox Church, this is a handy guide for those quickly-needed answers. Fr. Nicon’s writing is clear and concise, and the book comes with Archbishop Iakovos’ “unreserved enthusiasm.” All in all, a treasure of the Greek Orthodox Church in North America.

A more extensive review was compiled in England and printed in the Glastonbury Review by the British Orthodox Church at the URL: http://www.britishorthodox.org/104e.shtml .(This lengthier review appears here in its entirety with the exception of the paragraph on the background of Rev. Dr. Patrinacos, which we removed from its position near the end of the review and placed under our section "About the Author.")

In the last forty years a series of dictionaries have been published in the area of Eastern Orthodoxy to complement both the standard reference works on Christianity generally (for example, F.L.Cross (Ed) The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church London, Oxford University Press, 1974) or the very few works, generally out-dated and inadequate, on Orthodoxy specifically (most notably R.L. Langford-James A Dictionary of the Eastern Orthodox Church The Faith Press: London, 1923 reprinted by Burt Franklin, New York: 1976). These have included George Demetrakopoulos Dictionary of Orthodox Theology: A Summary of the Beliefs, Practices and History of the Eastern Orthodox Church Philosophical Linrary: New York, 1964; Peter Day The Liturgical Dictionary of Eastern Christianity Wellwood, Kent: Burns and Oats, 1993 ; Michael Prokurat, Alexander Golitzin and Michael Peterson Historical Dictionary of the Orthodox Church Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 1996 ; and Ken Parry, David Melling, Dimitri Brady, Sydney Griffth and John Healey (Eds) The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity Blackwell Publishers: Oxford,1999.

The Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy was first published in 1984 by the Department of Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America in New York, as well as by Hellenic Heritage Publications, which issued a second printing in 1987.

This is a valuable work, albeit one for which the description "encyclopedic dictionary" (the term used in the introductory article, "How to Consult this Dictionary") is unjustifiable. It contains 382 pages of text, followed by an unfortunately less than adequate English-Greek index. The articles range from Alpha-Omega and Abortion, through Baptism, Celibacy, Deacon and Iconoclastic Controversy to Matrimony, Mixed Marriages, Prayer, Suicide and Vestments. The entries range from substantial text on major subjects (for example: Ecumenical Patriarch) or persons (for example: John Chrysostom) or contemporary issues (for example, Lying) through to smaller entries on relatively obscure subjects (for example: Crypt, Evil Eye, Incense and Trikeron). There is a sound mix of subject areas, from theology and morality, through hagiography and liturgy.

The entries on historical subjects provide excellent summaries in concise and readable language. These include: Ecumencial Councils (with a summary of each of the Seven Councils recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Church), Ecumenical Patriarchate, Mount Athos, and The Great Schism. The entries on contemporary moral questions, including abortion, birth control, blasphemy, cremation, divorce and suicide) are well written and useful. They acknowledge and, if briefly, address some of the serious tensions in the application of traditional Orthodox practice in the modern world

There are some useful entries on (essentially) Western theological concepts discussed in Orthodox terms (for example: infallibility, transubstantiation) which, given the unfortunate tendency of some Orthodox writers in the West to adopt such Western theological language provides a helpful, albeit in summary form, alternative perspective.

The author unfortunately lapses into excessive Byzantinism (or, rather, Hellenism) on but few occasions. The entry on "Liturgical Language", sadly, declares that the language of Greek Orthodoxy has always been Greek, and must remain so. Noting (if only by implication) that the liturgical Greek is essentially unintelligible even to Greeks, the author argues that it is nevertheless the only language that can, or should, be used. He appears to argue that Greek texts ought to be translated into English, but that languages other than Greek must never be used in services of worship. Worshippers must learn the langauge to the extent needed for the worshipper not only to understand its meaning but to have its implied feelings transmitted to him. [p. 234] In a strange, and fortunately atypical lapse into irrational and, one might even say, superstitious and magical thinking, Fr Nicon argues that langauge is a vehicle of the most subtle inner states of one's experience and the instrument by which the most sublime thoughts can be rendered understndable and become appropriated by all. Thus, the sounds and grammatical and syntactical inflections of language have come to signify states of being that have been inextricably associated with them. What is called linguistic heritage refers to this inseparable association between the words and the emotional aura a language generates in the hearts and souls of people born and bred in it. [p.233] He carefully avoids the obvious problems for those not born and bred in Greek who, presumably, can never understand the most sublime thoughts of Orthodoxy. One can but wonder where this leaves the great Russian theologians and mystics, to mention but one significant Orthodox group which is not Greek. Interesting, the Dictionary does not include an entry on Phyletism.

The Helleno-Byzantism presumably also determined the lack of reference to the Oriental Orthodox Churches, although, given the work's title, that could hardly be considered a serious flaw. A passing mention is, unfortunately, inaccurate: ...the break became final in the 6th century when the Monophysites consolidated themselves into the Churches of the Coptc and Abyssinians, the Syrian Jacobites, and the Armenians. [p. 379]

Happily, this major, and one or two minor, lapses into obsessive Hellenic ethnocentrism, do not detract from an otherwise excellent reference work, which provides sound and accessible information about Greek Orthodox teaching and worship, with a helpful focus on contemporary practice.

The writing is clear, the English excellent and the proofreading (with one or two minor exceptions) very good. However, there is no bibliography, and no references for any of the articles.

The Dictionary is one of a wide range of volumes published by Light and Life. They range from Common Ground: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity for the American Orthodox, Health and Medicine in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition and Making Byzantine Vestments, to Contemporary Moral Issues Facing the Orthodox Christian, The Jesus Prayer in Eastern Spirituality and Making God Real in the Orthodox Home.

The Light and Life catalogue can be found at www.light-n-life.com

The Orthodox WayPublished Bi-WeeklyUSPS 600-160 XIV, No 12Postmaster send address changes to: St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church 2100 Boyer Avenue East Seattle, WA 98112 PERIODICALSPOSTAGE PAID AT SEATTLE, WA Page 12St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox ChurchPARISHIONERS’ EVENTSWeddings—Congratulations to Aaron Christos and Alexandra (Lemelson) Griffithwho were married on May 29th, 2004. Their Koumbara is Carolyn Rene Lemelson.“Na zesoun!” Congratulations to Steven and Eva (Christo) Aaron who were married on May 30, 2004. Their Koumbaroi are Vance and Alexa Thompson. “Na zesoun!” Baptisms– We welcome to our faith Aaron Christos Griffith who was baptized on May 28th. His sponsor is Dora Fournarakis. We welcome to our faith Jodi Maria Tveit whowas chrismated on May 30, 2004. Her sponsor is Dorothy Haskell.New Arrivals—Congratulations to the proud parents John and Cheryl Kritsonis onthe birth of a baby girl, Jayden Mackenzie, born on May 13th, 2004. The proudgrandparents are Katina Kritsonis and Gordon and Trudy Sayler. “Na sas zese!” Save The DateSaturday, November 20, 2004 Fr. John Commemorative Dinner St. Demetrios Cultural Hall His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony attending </html

About the Author

Dr Nicon Patrinacos studied theology, philosophy, psychology and sociology at universities in Greece, Australia and England, and completed his doctorate at Oxford in the field of the philosophy and psychology of religion. After teaching and serving as the Dean of the Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Massachusetts, he became head of the Department of Studies at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America and, later, the Archdiocese's Department of Education, before retiring in 1978.

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