WATCH OUT FOR ORTHODOX TYPOSPosted: June 24, 2011
In a way, it just isn’t fair to criticize the reporters and editors who work in
small and even midsized newspapers. They often are forced, by the facts on the
ground, to be journalistic jacks of all trades to a degree that is often
staggering. It is rare to have experienced people working on specialty beats
(except, of course, for stories involving religion — oh, sorry, I meant to say
So imagine, if you are a general-assignment reporter in Norman, Okla. — being
handed the assignment to cover a religious event as complex as the Eastern
Orthodox celebration of Pascha, which offers layers of complicated symbols,
rites, customs and small-t traditions that are woven into centuries of the
ancient church’s doctrines and big-T Traditions. Throw in the intricacies of
Great Lent and this could be a nightmare.
So the good news, speaking as an Orthodox churchman, is that the team at the
Norman Transcript got most
of the details right in this story from earlier in the year (which has just
now been called to the attention of your GetReligionistas).
But there are a few typos that slipped past the small and, I would imagine
beleaguered, copy-desk staff. Take this one for example, in a section in which
parishioner Edward Adwon is explaining the history of the sanctuary (including
the interesting case of the stolen Greek chandeliers):
All Orthodox churches, Adwon said, are built with the congregation and the
alter facing east “because the east is where the Holy Land is.”
That would be “altar.” Actually, it is customary for all sanctuaries in the
ancient Christian churches to be built facing to the east, in the direction of
the Resurrection and the Second Coming.
However, here is the mistake that inspired a correspondent to send us this
URL. Any Orthodox Christians who are reading this are urged to set down any
beverages that are currently in your hands and to swallow that last sip before
reading on. Ready?
“During Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday, we will have services every
night. On Holy Friday, we will reenact the burial of Christ. We do that by
having a beer, which is the representation, and we will come outside and we will
make a procession around the building. We also do that on Palm Sunday. That is
representing Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, which he did on the Sunday before
his Resurrection,” Adwon said.
Actually, that would be a “bier,” an
ornate model of a tomb that is covered in flowers and carried in procession
through the dark of the night. It contains the “epitaphios,” a richly embroidered
cloth that contains an icon of the body of Christ, after it has been removed
from the cross.
So for those who keep reference materials on religion-beat issues will want
to note that last hyperlink and then bookmark it — orthodoxwiki.org.
Meanwhile, let me again stress that the proper word was “bier,” not “beer.” I
mean, I know my share of Orthodox folks who love to party, but not in Holy Week.
The early hours of Pascha morning in the great feast? That’s another matter.
Hang in there, small- and mid-market journalists! Have courage and dive in.
But this is journalism. Just do it. The religion-beat is complex, but
professionals can approach it the way they do any complicated subject — with
patience, caution and lots of trips to online reference materials. Oh, and ask
those sources lots of follow-up spelling questions about technical and
For the comment pages! GetReligion readers, what are some of
your favorite media religion-beat typos or errors of this kind? If at all
possible, provide URLs. Kind
of like this one, which contains some classics.
Photo: Worshipers in an Orthodox parish
venerate the Gospels and the epitaphios icon inside the symbolic tomb of