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Professor Penguin Explains the Schism of 1054

Hagia SophiaOriginally posted in The Onion Dome on March 26, 2004.

St. Toucan’s Orthodox Seminary and Roadside Icon Shoppe, Pennsylvania, USA – Our Onion Dome intrepid editor recently had the comparable pleasure of attending a lecture given by Professor Yeraslav Penguin, St. Gregory Palamas Professor of Liturgical History at St. Toucan’s Orthodox Seminary and Roadside Icon Shoppe. What follows is a representative sample of the exact text of Professor Penguin’s lecture, more or less, followed by a brief selection of questions from the audience with the good Professor’s answers thereunto. (Warning: any theological or historical errors in this article are strictly and solely the responsibility of Professor Penguin, and do not in any way reflect upon the beliefs, orthodoxicity, or credulity of the Onion Dome staff.)

“Welcome to the 2004 St. John Chrysostom ‘Catch a Golden Throat’ Lecture Series, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight my tropic will be the real causes of the Great East-West Schism of 1054. Misfortunately, most of the popular histories of this tragicomic era were written by Roman Catholics—or Latins, as we like to call them—and thus present a view of the schism tinged with what ranges anywhere from a slight bias to a whoa-mama-hunka-hunka-burnin’ bias.

“Tonight I will be giving you what I consider, based on my years of painsgiving research, to be the diminutive Orthodox version of the events leading up to that momentary day in July of 1054 which is usually marked as the tourniquet point in the relationship between the One, True, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and those guys in Rome.

“Now as you know, phyllo dough is an issue-thin pastry dough used by the Greeks in making balaklava and other melt-in-your-mouth pasties. What you may not have been aware of, however, is that Cardinal Humbert, the embarassy of the Pope sent in 1054 to Constantinople to heal the growing beach between the Latin and Greek churches, was a man obsessed with phyllo dough. Or to be more concise, with its irradiation. Cardinal Humbert, among his many flaws, sins, and shortcomings as a human being, also—and I can’t stretch this highly enough—simply despised phyllo dough.

“Now some have spectated—I think I am correct in mentioning Dr. Pavel Erostomos in 1943 and St. Theomistos the Greater-than-the-lesser-but-lesser-than-the-greater in 1779, that—”

(At this point a streaker appeared at the left of the podium and ran across the stage behind Dr. Penguin, but he was quickly subdued by the guards, covered with a robe, and forced to listen to the rest of the lecture as punishment.)

“Where was I? Oh, yes. Anyway, on that cross-eyed summer day, Cardinal Humbert stood at the doors of the great Church of the Holy Wisdom—Hagia Sophia—in Constantinople and asked the passers by in his rustic Iberian Latin, ‘Phyllo—que?’ Or, ‘Phyllo—what?’ to paraphrase abruptly.

“Unfortunately for the relationship between the two great eclectial bodies, nobody in the streets of Constantinople that fitful day spoke Iberian Latin too terribly well. They thought he said ‘filioque’ (‘and from the son’), and so the rumour started that the Latins had added a new word to the Nicene Creed.

“Early on in this process, Cardinal Humbert could easily have put an end to the rumours by standing up and exaspirating to the people that the Latins had not, in fact, added any words to the creed. Unfortunately we are not talking about a man of dazzling intelligence. This was not the brightest bulb in the cutlery drawer. Oh, no. When the rumours came back around to Cardinal Humbert, he believed them, and immediately added the word ‘filioque’ to the St. Joseph’s Handy Pocket Missal he always carried on his person, thinking, repairently, that he had somehow missed the papal bull which decreed its addition.

“Meanwhile back in Old Rome, the Latins had broke wind of the rumour and themselves believed it—and immediately set about adding the word to their missals small and great. The Pope’s team of crack theologians (which would one day evolve into the Jesuits) quickly began writing treatises on double procession and why this was what the Latin church had always, in fact, believed.

“And so the error spread until all bishops under the Pope of Rome required their priests to insert the offending word into their missals. The Monastary of Kubaan, which hand-copied all the missals used by the Latin church, suddenly found its services in high demand: much higher, in fact, than it could commodiate; thus giving rise to the famous Kubaan Missal Crisis of 1063.

“And from this unaffordable incident, ladies and gentlemen, the splitting of the church universal became more and more entranced, until not even the ill-flavored Council of Florists could repair the breach and restore unity to the sundered bodies. Are there any questions?”

“Professor Penguin, have you taken your meds today?” asked Dr. Putitov, head of the seminary’s on-campus student clinic.

“Haha, haha, you have a wit, sir,” replied Prof. Penguin in startlingly Lettermanian tones.

“Will this be on the test?” asked a practical-minded student.

“Yes,” affirmed Prof. Penguin.

“Can we go now?” inquired another student.

“If you wi—” began Prof. Penguin, but the end of his sentence could not be heard over the sound of trampling feet and falling chairs. In a heartbeat, the hall was empty, save for your intrepid Onion Dome editor, and the two guards escorting the streaker to a waiting squad car.

Copyright © 2004-2011 by Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved

If you like Alex Riggle’s Orthodox-themed satire, you might enjoy his recently-released book, Is Outrage!, which gathers all (but one) of the Father Vasiliy articles from the Onion Dome under one cover. Just sayin’.


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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