Praying with the Senses

Praying with the Senses

Contemporary Orthodox Christian Spirituality in Practice
Edited by Sonja Luehrmann
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 12/08/2017
Format: Paperback 15 b&w illus., 2 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-03166-2
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How do people experience spirituality through what they see, hear, touch, and smell? Sonja Luehrmann and an international group of scholars assess how sensory experience shapes prayer and ritual practice among Eastern Orthodox Christians. Prayer, even when performed privately, is considered as a shared experience and act that links individuals and personal beliefs with a broader, institutional, or imagined faith community. It engages with material, visual, and aural culture including icons, relics, candles, pilgrimage, bells, and architectural spaces. Whether touching upon the use of icons in the age of digital and electronic media, the impact of Facebook on prayer in Ethiopia, or the implications of praying using recordings, amplifiers, and loudspeakers, these timely essays present a sophisticated overview of the history of Eastern Orthodox Christianities. Taken as a whole they reveal prayer as a dynamic phenomenon in the devotional and ritual lives of Eastern Orthodox believers across Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.

Author Bio

Sonja Luehrmann is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. She is author of Secularism Soviet Style: Teaching Atheism and Religion in a Volga Republic and Religion in Secular Archives: Soviet Atheism and Historical Knowledge.


“Precisely by looking at so varied a group of locations home to Orthodox practice, this book conveys the fragility--and durability--of traditional religion in a postmodern, secular age. ”
 — Nadieszda Kizenko, author of A Prodigal Saint: Father John of Kronstadt and the Russian People

“A well-documented, interdisciplinary examination of devotional practices, rituals, and understandings of prayer in contemporary lived forms of Eastern Christianity across a wide variety of traditions, including Coptic, Ethiopian, Greek, Indian, Russian, Syrian, and Ukranian. These essays define the phenomenon of prayer broadly in both its private and collective liturgical dimensions.”
 — Vera Shevzov, author of Russian Orthodoxy on the Eve of Revolution

“[T]he contributors to this volume offer a number of valuable insights into questions of personhood, mediation, tradition, authority, publicity, intimacy, belonging, and the theological valences we attach to the human sensorium. Their collective labor demonstrates that Eastern Christianity is rich soil for anthropological inquiry from a number of vantage-points and for a host of theoretical interests.”
 — AnthroCyBib

“This collection could well be a principal text in courses on contemporary spirituality and church life. And equally it could be used for retreats and for personal spiritual reading as well. It is a welcome addition to other fine work that explores popular spirituality.”
 — St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly

“These essays advance the understanding of Eastern Orthodox spiritual practices from a religious studies perspective, and they will likely stimulate new directions for research and teaching in this largely neglected area.”
 — Reading Religion

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Senses of Prayer in Eastern Orthodox Christianity / Sonja Luehrmann Part I: Senses
1. Becoming Orthodox: The Mystery and Mastery of a Christian Tradition / Vlad Naumescu
A Missionary Primer / Ioann Veniaminov
2. Listening and the Sacramental Life: Degrees of Mediation in Greek Orthodox Christianity / Jeffers Engelhardt
Creating an Image for Prayer / Sonja Luehrmann
3. Imagining Holy Personhood: Anthropological Thresholds of the Icon / Angie Heo
Syriac as a lingua sacra: Speaking the Language of Christ in India / Vlad Naumescu
4. Authorizing: The Paradoxes of Praying by the Book / Sonja Luehrmann
Part II: Worlds
5. Inhabiting Orthodox Russia: Religious Nomadism and the Puzzle of Belonging / Jeanne Kormina
Baraka: Mixing Muslims, Christians, and Jews / Angie Heo
6. Sharing Space: On the Publicity of Prayer, between an Ethiopian Village and the Rest of the World / Tom Boylston
Prayers for Cars, Weddings, and Well-Being: Orthodox Prayers en route in Syria / Andreas Bandak
7. Struggling Bodies at the Crossroads of Economy and Tradition: The Case of Contemporary Russian Convents / Daria Dubovka
Competing Prayers for Ukraine / Sonja Luehrmann
8. Orthodox Revivals: Prayer, Charisma, and Liturgical Religion / Simion Pop
Epilogue: Not-Orthodoxy/Orthodoxy's Others / William A. Christian Jr.

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