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Never quite heard it put this way ...

Quote:...from late antiquity right up into the high middle ages?the Church of the East was, in geographic terms, far and away the largest Christian communion in the world, and the most actively evangelical. Had there been such a thing as accurate cartography in the early thirteenth century, any good map of the Christian world might have suggested to a casual observer that European Christianity was little more than a local phenomenon, a sort of provincial annex at the western edge of Assyrian Christendom.


And yet, down the centuries the Church of the East has persisted: a small community, perennially persecuted in the place of its birth, and until very recently seemingly indomitable. Far away from there?in India, where it has had a home for centuries, and in North America, where it has had to find a new home in a dark time, and elsewhere?its scattered branches continue to bear fruit, not copiously, perhaps, but indefatigably. But in its homeland it is being pushed towards the edge of extinction.

So it goes, I suppose. History is not at our command, and the future does not lie in our power; we must do what we can, but we can do only so much. And, in the end, all cultures rise and fall; none is eternal. Nevertheless, for anyone who knows the strange, glorious, and too often forgotten history of the Church of the East, it is difficult to view the current situation without a very special and very intense bitterness.

David Bentley Hart is a contributing editor of First Things.


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