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Archive for June, 2008

Listen to Pope Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew recite the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 together in Greek (thanks to Fr Z).

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… [T]he reading of history that you have taken on from Joseph Farrell, that I think constitutes an ideology, in fact resembles, theoretically and rhetorically, the ideology of those who gave fuel to the Bosnian war. It presents a discourse wherein the West is conceived to have fallen from divine grace, and the chief villain of the story is St. Augustine. It is to his “dialectic” of divine simplicity, which you see as fundamentally akin to that of Eunomius, that you ascribe the manifold problems of the West. It may well be that you accord Augustine some credit as an honest Christian; but his thinking you consistently represent as heresy, “Sabellianism” or “Semi-Sabellianism.” When I say that this is an ideology, I mean that it is maintained only through a kind of willful disregard of Christian history. It presents a caricature view of both the West and the East, a caricature that arises from an impatience with looking at facts. Neither the East, nor certainly the West, was ever as monolithically Photian in its understanding of the trinitarian mystery as you make it out to be. That is one of the things, in writing this blog, that I have tried to show.

That impatience with looking at facts has serious consequences for Christian relations. The West is asked to renounce its own past, to take on a view of God that never really belonged to it. I do think that this is a kind of destruction of memory, implicitly a kind of violence, and that the West rightly rejects such a demand. And I know that theoretical violence often issues in the physical kind.

This is not to say that the West never perpetrated violence on the East, both theoretical and physical. And it is right that the theoretical and physical causes of violence be acknowledged and renounced on both sides. But my consistent claim throughout this blog has been that people like the Cappadocians, St. Athanasius, St. Maximus, and other fathers of the Church were constantly aware of the dangers of Christian misunderstanding, dangers of violence, and that they sought to obviate those dangers by perceiving, if at all possible, the underlying commonality of doctrine when there was a verbal disagreement. I think that that is what St. Maximus does in his Letter to Marinus. And I am pretty certain that the underlying commonality of doctrine St. Maximus defends in that letter allows for the orthodoxy of St. Augustine’s teaching on the Holy Trinity, in spite of what is said by Anastasius the Librarian.

In short, I think that Bekkos is a better reader of the patristic evidence than Photius is. It may be that you think such an acknowledgment is inconsistent with belonging to the Orthodox Church. Perhaps you are right; God is judge. But I have a great hesitation to leave Orthodox discourse entirely in the hands of those who are impatient with fact, and who thereby disallow the possibility of any Christian reconciliation from the outset …

Peter Gilbert

Update (6/30/2008) – A new post at De unione ecclesiarum: “On exclusive truth-claims; or, What I Believe”

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The New Liturgical Movement has some lovely video screencaps from this evening’s Solemn Papal Vespers at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. The Pope has an extremely important guest this evening: His Holiness, Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople! There are some particularly moving pictures (here and here) of the Successor of Saint Peter and the Successor of Saint Andrew the First-Called praying before the tomb of Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles. Some video of the event may be viewed here.

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(Apologies for the cheesy title.)

Recently on some of my favorite blogs, there have been some excellent rebuttals to Orthodox contentions about the Filioque clause and the Procession of the Holy Spirit.

First, Sacramentum Vitae’s Dr Michael Liccione (a veteran of irenic, scholarly, substantive online Catholic-Orthodox debate) has added a new installment to an ever-growing series of posts on the Filioque. As always, the gigantic ensuing combox discussions are well worth following. Also, by popular demand, Dr Liccione has added a separate blog category for discussion of the Filioque, as of today containing 13 posts.

Second, Dr Scott Carson of An Examined Life has posted a lengthy reflection on the Filioque debate currently going on at Sacramentum Vitae. Dr Carson’s past posts dealing with the topic are also well worth studying (see especially here).

Third, Brandon, at the philosophy blog Siris, has another reflection on the ongoing debate at Sacramentum Vitae. Brandon’s previous posts on the topic may be read through here.

Fourth, Jonathan Prejean at Crimson Catholic has posted “A Filioque Footnote” to the Sacramentum Vitae, debate, concerning a Catholic patristic scholar’s take on Gregory of Nyssa’s use of the phrase dia tou yiou (“through the Son”).

Finally (last but not least), Dr Peter Gilbert at De unione ecclesiarum has a very interesting post which is more up my alley, as a very lazy amateur who enjoys studying history more than theology or philosophy. The post concerns Anastasius Bibliothecarius (“the Librarian”) – a very colorful ninth-century member (and perhaps antipope) of the Roman Church – and his apparently Greek-friendly (even Photian) interpretation of Maximus the Confessor’s defense of Latin understandings of the Spirit’s Procession (be sure to read Dr Gilbert’s earlier post on that here).

Update (6/25) – And yet another lengthy post from Dr Liccione, “Creedal Amplification”. Our cup runneth over!

Update (6/28) – Wei-Hsien Wan at Torn Notebook has a great new post on the Filioque debates from the perspective of a “bystander” (which I consider myself to be as well). The post ends with some extremely wise advice from Saint Ephrem Syrus:

Father, Son and Holy Spirit can be reached only by Their names;
do no look further, to Their persons, just meditate on Their names.
If you investigate the person of God, you will perish,
but if you believe in the name, you will live.
Let the name of the Father be a boundary to you,
do not cross it and investigate His nature;
let the name of the Son be a wall to you,
do not cross it and investigate His birth from the Father;
let the name of the Spirit be a fence for you,
do not enter inside for the purpose of prying into Him.
(Memra on Faith 4:129-40)

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… including a brief but interesting reference to Eastern Orthodox (and Melkite Greek Catholic) practice. From a transcript of Benedict XVI’s impromptu address to the clergy of the Aosta Diocese on July 25, 2005:

… [Another priest raised the topic of Communion for the faithful who are divorced and remarried. The Holy Father answered him as follows:]

We all know that this is a particularly painful problem for people who live in situations in which they are excluded from Eucharistic Communion, and naturally for the priests who desire to help these people love the Church and love Christ. This is a problem.

None of us has a ready-made formula, also because situations always differ. I would say that those who were married in the Church for the sake of tradition but were not truly believers, and who later find themselves in a new and invalid marriage and subsequently convert, discover faith and feel excluded from the Sacrament, are in a particularly painful situation. This really is a cause of great suffering and when I was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I invited various bishops’ conferences and experts to study this problem: a sacrament celebrated without faith. Whether, in fact, a moment of invalidity could be discovered here because the Sacrament was found to be lacking a fundamental dimension, I do not dare to say. I personally thought so, but from the discussions we had I realized that it is a highly complex problem and ought to be studied further. But given these people’s painful plight, it must be studied further.

I shall not attempt to give an answer now, but in any case two aspects are very important. The first: even if these people cannot go to sacramental Communion, they are not excluded from the love of the Church or from the love of Christ. A Eucharist without immediate sacramental Communion is not of course complete; it lacks an essential dimension. Nonetheless, it is also true that taking part in the Eucharist without Eucharistic Communion is not the same as nothing; it still means being involved in the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. It is still participating in the great Sacrament in its spiritual and pneumatic dimensions, and also in its ecclesial dimension, although this is not strictly sacramental.

And since it is the Sacrament of Christ’s passion, the suffering Christ embraces these people in a special way and communicates with them in another way differently, so that they may feel embraced by the Crucified Lord who fell to the ground and died and suffered for them and with them. Consequently, they must be made to understand that even if, unfortunately, a fundamental dimension is absent, they are not excluded from the great mystery of the Eucharist or from the love of Christ who is present in it. This seems to me important, just as it is important that the parish priest and the parish community make these people realize that on the one hand they must respect the indissolubility of the sacrament, and on the other, that we love these people who are also suffering for us. Moreover, we must suffer with them, because they are bearing an important witness and because we know that the moment when one gives in “out of love”, one wrongs the Sacrament itself and the indissolubility appears less and less true.

We know the problem, not only of the Protestant communities but also of the Orthodox Churches, which are often presented as a model for the possibility of remarriage. But only the first marriage is sacramental: the Orthodox too recognize that the other marriages are not sacramental, they are reduced and redimensioned marriages and in a penitential situation; in a certain sense, the couple can go to Communion but in the awareness that this is a concession “by economy,” as they say, through mercy which, nevertheless, does not remove the fact that their marriage is not a sacrament. The other point is that in the Eastern Churches for these marriages they have conceded the possibility of divorce with great irresponsibility, and that the principle of indissolubility, the true sacramental character of the marriage, is therefore seriously injured.

On the one hand, therefore, is the good of the community and the good of the sacrament that we must respect, and on the other, the suffering of the people we must alleviate.

The second point that we should teach and also make credible through our own lives is that suffering, in various forms, is a necessary part of our lives. I would call this a noble suffering. Once again, it is necessary to make it clear that pleasure is not everything. May Christianity give us joy, just as love gives joy. But love is always also a renunciation of self. The Lord himself has given us the formula of what love is: those who lose themselves find themselves; those who spare or save themselves are lost.

It is always an “Exodus,” hence, painful. True joy is something different from pleasure; joy grows and continues to mature in suffering, in communion with the Cross of Christ. It is here alone that the true joy of faith is born, from which even they are not excluded if they learn to accept their suffering in communion with that of Christ.

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This is the strangest news story I’ve come across in a while. I can’t help but think that there is something seriously wrong with the English translation (hint: I’m guessing “1st century” means “1st millennium”). Anyhow, here’s the story from the Religious Information Service of Ukraine (RISU):

Munich — In a recent interview with the German ecumenical journal Cyril and Methodius, the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Constantinople Bartholomew I invited Eastern Catholic Churches to return to Orthodoxy without breaking unity with Rome. He noted that “the Constantinople Mother-Church keeps the door open for all its sons and daughters.” According to the Orthodox hierarch, the form of coexistence of the Byzantine Church and the Roman Church in the 1st century of Christianity should be used as a model of unity. This story was posted by KATH.net on 16 June 2008.

At the same time, the patriarch made positive remarks about the idea of “dual unity” proposed by the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Archbishop Lubomyr (Husar). Patriarch Bartholomew I noted in particular that this model would help to overcome the schism between the Churches.

I don’t quite understand what the EP is getting at here. Is he proposing dual communion just for the Eastern Catholics after they have returned to Orthodoxy (which makes no ecclesiological sense for either side), or dual communion for all of Orthodoxy, this side of the eschaton?

Has His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, been possessed by the spirit of Archbishop Elias Zoghby? Assuming that His All-Holiness is really proposing the concept of dual communion, what will be the response of the other local Orthodox Churches, particularly Moscow? What will the monks of Mount Athos do … not to mention the Orthodox convert blogosphere?

Unfortunately, I don’t read German, but perhaps the original Kath.net story referenced in the RISU article could shed some light on what the EP is talking about (Babelfish helps a little bit).

Hat tip to Byzantine Texas and to Rorate Caeli.

UpdateThis Catholic World News article has a bit more detail. Still, it would be helpful to have what the Patriarch said verbatim.

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Wan Wei Hsien, over at Torn Notebook, has posted an essay by the late Melkite Archbishop Elias Zoghby on “The Indissolubility of Marriage”, in two parts, here and here.

Also, while we’re at it … I never got the chance to link to some comments on the same sticky issue of Eastern and Western marriage disciplines by Dr. Peter Gilbert at De unione ecclesiarum.

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