January 07, 2012
Fighting over the baby Jesus's crib
Many Christians who belong to the Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas on or around January 6 because they follow the older Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar that the rest of the world uses. This gives them a huge advantage since they can do their Christmas shopping after December 25, thus not only avoiding the crowds but also taking advantage of the post-Christmas sales.
I came across this news report that said that priests of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Armenian Orthodox Church came to blows over who has the right to clean the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the site that tradition says is where Jesus was born. Each side had come with cleaning materials to clean their assigned area but when one group encroached on the space of another, they used their brooms and mops to wage a pitched battle for supremacy. Watch.
What is extraordinary is that this apparently happens every year and police have to be called in to quell the disturbance but that no arrests are made because, as the police chief says, "all those involved were men of God". Of course they were. Who else would fight about something like that?
The intensity of feeling over cleaning a building made me curious as to what theological difference existed between these two religious traditions and discovered that the split dated back to 451 CE and the Council of Chalcedon that was convened to settle an important doctrinal issue known as the "Two Natures" controversy: Did the two natures of Jesus (divine and human) co-exist in his body or were the two natures fused into one? The verdict of the Council was in favor the former and believers of any other formulation were 'anathematized' or cursed.
As if often the case involving dogma, the final adjudication caused umbrage on the part of the losing side in the debate, causing them to take their ball and go home, which in this case meant forming the Oriental Orthodox churches of which the Armenian branch is one.
I myself am on the side of the Greek Orthodox Church in this dispute since they are obviously right. The idea that the two natures of Jesus were fused into one is preposterous and the Armenians will burn in hell forever for this monstrous heresy. As for them breaking away, all I can say is, "Good riddance, splitters."