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Archive for the ‘Filioque’ Category

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation
Georgetown University, Washington, DC

Saturday, October 2, 2010

[Emphasis and a few comments added]

1.  Prologue. For almost forty-five years, the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation has been meeting regularly to discuss some of the major pastoral and doctrinal issues that prevent our Churches from sharing a single life of faith, sacraments, and witness before the world.  Our goal has been to pave the way towards sharing fully in Eucharistic communion through recognizing and accepting each other as integral parts of the Church founded by Jesus Christ.

2. A Central Point of Disagreement.  In the course of our discussions, it has become increasingly clear to us that the most divisive element in our traditions has been a growing diversity, since the late patristic centuries, in the ways we understand the structure of the Church itself, particularly our understanding of the forms of headship that seem essential to the Church’s being at the local, regional and worldwide levels.  At the heart of our differences stands the way each of our traditions understands the proper exercise of primacy in the leadership of the Church, both within the various regions of the Christian world and within Christianity as a whole.  In order to be the Body of Christ in its fullness — to be both “Orthodox” and “Catholic” — does a local community, gathered to celebrate the Eucharist, have to be united with the other Churches that share the Apostolic faith, not only through Scripture, doctrine, and tradition, but also through common worldwide structures of authority — particularly through the practice of a universal synodality in union with the bishop of Rome?

[There is no question here of one side or the other returning to some pure, patristic, first millennium standard. It's unfair for each side to reproach the other for departing from such a mythic standard. Church history is full of both "Orthodox" and "Catholic" moments (and even a few "Protestant" ones!), and apologists for each side will use the bits that best fit their case. The problems which arose between the Churches in the second millennium arose because there was no consensus about the relationship between primacy and conciliarity in the first! There must, then, be a model of Orthodox-Catholic communion for the third millennium.]

It seems to be no exaggeration, in fact, to say that the root obstacle preventing the Orthodox and Catholic Churches from growing steadily towards sacramental and practical unity has been, and continues to be, the role that the bishop of Rome plays in the worldwide Catholic communion. While for Catholics, maintaining communion in faith and sacraments with the bishop of Rome is considered a necessary criterion for being considered Church in the full sense, for Orthodox, as well as for Protestants, it is precisely the pope’s historic claims to authority in teaching and Church life that are most at variance with the image of the Church presented to us in the New Testament and in early Christian writings.  In the carefully understated words of Pope John Paul II, “the Catholic Church’s conviction that in the ministry of the bishop of Rome she has preserved, in fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition and the faith of the Fathers, the visible sign and guarantor of unity, constitutes a difficulty for most other Christians, whose memory is marked by certain painful recollections” (Ut Unum Sint 88).

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The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation recently held its annual meeting and has just released the text of two statements: one on the date of Easter, and the other entitled “Steps Towards a Reunited Church: A Sketch of an Orthodox-Catholic Vision for the Future”.  The latter statement is reproduced below (emphasis added).

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STEPS TOWARDS A REUNITED CHURCH: A SKETCH OF AN ORTHODOX-CATHOLIC VISION FOR THE FUTURE

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation
Georgetown University, Washington, DC
October 2, 2010

1.  Prologue. For almost forty-five years, the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation has been meeting regularly to discuss some of the major pastoral and doctrinal issues that prevent our Churches from sharing a single life of faith, sacraments, and witness before the world.  Our goal has been to pave the way towards sharing fully in Eucharistic communion through recognizing and accepting each other as integral parts of the Church founded by Jesus Christ.

2. A Central Point of Disagreement.  In the course of our discussions, it has become increasingly clear to us that the most divisive element in our traditions has been a growing diversity, since the late patristic centuries, in the ways we understand the structure of the Church itself, particularly our understanding of the forms of headship that seem essential to the Church’s being at the local, regional and worldwide levels.  At the heart of our differences stands the way each of our traditions understands the proper exercise of primacy in the leadership of the Church, both within the various regions of the Christian world and within Christianity as a whole.  In order to be the Body of Christ in its fullness — to be both “Orthodox” and “Catholic” — does a local community, gathered to celebrate the Eucharist, have to be united with the other Churches that share the Apostolic faith, not only through Scripture, doctrine, and tradition, but also through common worldwide structures of authority — particularly through the practice of a universal synodality in union with the bishop of Rome?

It seems to be no exaggeration, in fact, to say that the root obstacle preventing the Orthodox and Catholic Churches from growing steadily towards sacramental and practical unity has been, and continues to be, the role that the bishop of Rome plays in the worldwide Catholic communion. While for Catholics, maintaining communion in faith and sacraments with the bishop of Rome is considered a necessary criterion for being considered Church in the full sense, for Orthodox, as well as for Protestants, it is precisely the pope’s historic claims to authority in teaching and Church life that are most at variance with the image of the Church presented to us in the New Testament and in early Christian writings.  In the carefully understated words of Pope John Paul II, “the Catholic Church’s conviction that in the ministry of the bishop of Rome she has preserved, in fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition and the faith of the Fathers, the visible sign and guarantor of unity, constitutes a difficulty for most other Christians, whose memory is marked by certain painful recollections” (Ut Unum Sint 88).

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I don’t intend to start a combox debate on the topic of the Procession of the Holy Spirit, but I couldn’t resist posting this funny story from Fox News’s coverage of the Papal visit to the UK:

It’s not every day you see Latin on a placard protesting the Pope. When the anti-papal crowd of several thousand atheists, radical feminists and gay activists gathered in London this weekend, most of the banners were pretty simple: stuff like “Nope to the Pope” and “Papa Don’t Preach.”

But later in the afternoon, on the edges of the papal motorcade, and amidst a number of cheering fans of Benedict, there was a poster raised demanding, “DROP THE FILIOQUE.”

What? You have to know a little bit of Latin, and a lot of theology and history to get that one.

It wasn’t really a poster; it more like Magic Marker theology on a pizza box. And a young man named Toby Guise was happy to explain where, in his opinion, the Catholic Church had gone wrong.

“Filioque” means “And the Son,” and refers to a centuries-old debate between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, about whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, as the Orthodox believe, or from the Father and the Son, which is the Catholic teaching.

That’s tough stuff, material for smart folks debating in a graduate school seminar. Perhaps it’s too bad the Pope didn’t see the pizza box; he would have been amused.

And in his former career as a professor and not a pontiff, he probably would have liked to talk to the young man holding it up.

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We continue with the second part of Michaël de Verteuil’s report on the recent “Orthodox Constructions of the West” conference at Fordham University (June 28-30).  Part one may be found here.
.
Update – Dr Peter Gilbert, of De unione ecclesiarum, has posted the first part of his reflections on the Conference.

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Dr. Kolbaba is a secular historian for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect. I relied in large part and on whose work on the background to the 1054 dispute in drafting my article on Patriarch Michael Cerularius.

In her lead presentation at the conference, “The Tenth Century: Orthodox Constructions of the West in the Golden Age of Byzantium”, she set out to explain not so much why the schism occurred, but why it occurred when it did in the latter half of the 11th century. Specifically, she sought to answer this question in such a way as to avoid a deterministic view of history which treats critical events in retrospect as if they were somehow inevitable. What made the timing of the schism so difficult to explain, in her view, was that it followed on a long period of generally good relations between East and West. The 9th century dust-up between Rome on one hand, and Constantinople in the person of Photius on the other was widely seen in retrospect in the 10th century as an aberration.

Nevertheless, Dr. Kolbaba noted that this earlier dispute had not occurred in a vacuum.

All the factors that were later offered up to justify the schism (the papal claims, the filioque, as well as liturgical and disciplinary differences) were of long standing and were known in the 10th century, though they were not yet seen at the time as obstacles to communion. Both East and West had gone through a period of missionary expansion early in the 10th century with their evangelization efforts overlapping notably in Moravia and Bulgaria. Differences in ritual practice had been noted in these shared missionary areas, but without the “other side” necessarily being seen as “wrong” as a result. Differing liturgical practices had also been a minor factor in the political and ecclesial rivalry between the Lombard duchies and the Byzantine empire in Southern Italy, though not one that had attracted much notice in Constantinople prior to the 11th century.

In essence, Rome was still viewed positively in the 10th century for its earlier role in resisting iconoclasm, and the West was correspondingly not then perceived as a source of heresy. Despite the 9th century controversy over the filioque, Dr. Kolbaba noted that a comprehensive review of extant documents has yielded not a single Greek treatise against the interpolation that can be traced unambiguously to the 10th century, a lacuna all the more remarkable as one would in later times be expected (she observed half jokingly) to write at least two before being taken seriously as an Orthodox theologian.  Furthermore, works condemning typically Western liturgical practices which would characterize Orthodox polemics in later centuries had yet to be written. So what changed in the 11th century?

Some early developments in the West were to have a latent impact on relations and on the way in which it would be perceived in the East. Dr. Kolbaba noted, for example, to the differing way in which Rome and the Frankish court were to receive the decisions of the 7th ecumenical council (albeit the Frankish reaction being based on a seriously flawed translation of the canons). The Gregorian reforms in the 11th century were to  usher in a harder Western line on clerical celibacy and independence from secular authorities, as well as on the Papal claims; but Dr. Kolbaba argued that it was the East rather than the West that was ultimately to pick fault with the other, and that it was in the East that we should look for the key developments that would leading to a change in attitude that in turn would make the schism possible. Specifically and perhaps surprisingly she pointed to the substantial improvement in the Byzantine military situation along the empire’s eastern and southeastern frontier in the late 10th and early 11th centuries as the key underlying game changer.

Territorial contraction in earlier centuries and the struggle against iconoclasm had resulted in a more homogenous Greek-speaking and liturgically Byzantine empire. These features were to become, for courtly and religious elites based in Constantinople, the empire’s defining attributes any weakening of which could be seen as posing an existential threat to its survival. The later reestablishment of Byzantine control in Armenia and northern Syria, however, was to significantly alter the political and cultural balance of power in the empire in ways that would prove threatening to these self-described “Guardians of Orthodoxy.”

The reversal of the empire’s fortunes was to occur under a successful string of emperors from military families with allegedly non-Greek antecedents. Non-Greek populations, most notably Armenians, were resettled in the reconquered areas, forming a client and martial recruitment base for these new military elites. In order to facilitate the incorporation of populations that had largely broken with the official Church over Chalcedon, emperors such as Basil II tended to adopt a policy of de facto religious toleration that was bitterly contested by the more “purist” traditional elites in the capital. For the Guardians of Orthodoxy, the policy of tolerance pursued by emperors themselves of allegedly Armenian descent became increasingly reminiscent of the heretical proclivities of the earlier non-Greek (“Isaurian”) iconoclast emperors. This led to fears that the new military elites now based in the reconquered east were poised to link up politically with the new non-Greek “other” increasingly associated with heresy, in a way that threatened the empire’s unity, purity and thus divine protection.

The ire of these traditional elites in Constantinople came to be focused on the main distinguishing features of the Armenian liturgy, namely the use of azymes (unleavened bread) in the eucharist portrayed as a deliberate downplaying of the Resurrection and thus of Christ’s humanity, i.e. of monophysite heresy made liturgically manifest. Dr. Kolbaba concluded that it is in the context of the resulting anti-Armenian polemics (in which difference in liturgical practice was linked conceptually with religious dissent, and in which non-Greekness came to be increasingly identified with heterodoxy) that previously low-level tensions over rite and jurisdiction in Southern Italy came to be seen in Constantinople in a new light, and in which the orthodoxy of the non-Greek, “azymite” West first came to be questioned.

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A. Edward Siecienski

Oxford University Press (April 2010)
ISBN13: 9780195372045
ISBN10: 0195372042
Hardback, 368 pages

Description

Among the issues that have divided Eastern and Western Christians throughout the centuries, few have had as long and interesting a history as the question of the filioque. Christians everywhere confess their faith in the ancient words of the Nicene Creed. But rather than serve as a source of unity, the Creed has been one of the chief sources of division, as East and West profess their faith in the Trinitarian God using different language. In the Orthodox East, the faithful profess their belief in “the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father.” In the West, however, they say they believe in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father “and the Son”-in Latin “filioque.” For over a millennium Christendom’s greatest minds have addressed and debated the question (sometimes in rather polemical terms) in the belief that the theological issues at stake were central to an orthodox understanding of the trinitarian God. To most modern people, this may seem like a trivial matter, and indeed most ordinary Christians would be hard pressed to explain the doctrine behind this phrase. In the history of Christianity, however, these words have played an immense role, and the story behind them deserves to be told. For to tell the story of the filioque is to tell of the rise and fall of empires, of crusades launched and repelled, of holy men willing to die for the faith, and of worldly men willing to use it for their own political ends. It is, perhaps, one of the most interesting stories in all of Christendom, filled with characters and events that would make even the best dramatists envious.

The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy is the first complete English language history of the filioque written in over a century. Beginning with the biblical texts and ending with recent agreements on the place and meaning of the filioque, this book traces the history of the doctrine and the controversy that has surrounded it. From the Greek and Latin fathers, the ninth-century debates, the Councils of Lyons and Ferrara-Florence, to the twentieth- and twenty-first century-theologians and dialogues that have come closer than ever to solving this thorny problem, Edward Siecienski explores the strange and fascinating history behind one of the greatest ecumenical rifts in Christendom.

Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction
Chapter 1: The Procession of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament
Chapter 2: The Greek Fathers
Chapter 3: The Latin West
Chapter 4: Maximus the Confessor
Chapter 5: The Filioque from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century
Chapter 6: The Filioque from the Eleventh Century to the Thirteenth Century
Chapter 7: The Council of Lyons to the Eve of Ferrara-Florence
Chapter 8: The Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-39)
Chapter 9: From Florence to the Modern Era
Chapter 10: The Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries

Reviews

“The tragic schism between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Christianity has for more than a millennium centered on the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity, whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father, or from the Father and the Son (Filioque), and in particular on the Western addition of the phrase Filioque to the creed. It is a long and tangled controversy which is traced in all its twists and turns with admirable clarity by Edward Siecienski in this fine book. Siecienski explores the past and looks to the future. One of his more astonishing revelations is that it is one of the earliest attempts at an irenical approach to the question-by the seventh-century monk and theologian, St Maximus the Confessor-that holds out the best hopes in the present for a final resolution of this controversy.”

–Andrew Louth, Author of Greek East and Latin West: the Church AD 681-1071

“At last we have the history of the Filioque controversy from beginning to end, free of confessional bias, engaging with both the theology and the historical context. An admirable presentation of the blend of Trinitarian theology, ecclesiastical rivalry, and historical events that sustained (and sometimes still sustain) the controversy, Siecienski’s book should be required reading for interested historians, theologians, and ecumenists. I have wanted this book for a long time and am thrilled to have it on my desk at last.”

–Tia Kolbaba, Author of Inventing Latin Heretics: Byzantines and the Filioque in the Ninth Century

“Siecienski excavates the intricacies of the Filioque controversy with magisterial ability in this excellent study. He is equally adept in telling us why the argument arose, and why it still matters. This is a book that is bound to become an authoritative classic on the subject.”

–John A. McGuckin, Author of The Orthodox Church: Its History and Spiritual Culture

About the Author

Assistant Professor of Religion and Pappas Professor of Byzantine Culture and Religion, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

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Dr Peter Gilbert, of De unione ecclesiarum (one of a few blogs by an Orthodox Christian I can bear to read) has just posted the text of a lecture he recently gave to the Youngstown, Ohio chapter of the Society of St John Chrysostom. Please leave any comments you have at Dr Gilbert’s blog.

I will only reproduce here a quote of St Gregory the Theologian, which seems to sum up so well the history of theological wrangling between Greek and Latin Christianity:

Others, mutually divided, drive East and West
into confusion, and God has abandoned them to their flesh,
for which they make war, giving their name and their allegiance to others:
my god’s Paul, yours is Peter, his is Apollos.
But Christ is pierced with nails to no purpose.
For it’s not from Christ that we’re called, but from men,
we who possess his honor by hands and by blood.
So much have our eyes been clouded over by a love
of vain glory, or gain, or by bitter envy,
pining away, rejoicing in evil: these have a well-earned misery.
And the pretext is the Trinity, but the reality is faithless hate.
Each is two-faced, a wolf concealed against the sheep,
and a brass pot hiding a nasty food for the children.

[Poem 2.1.13, To the Bishops, vv. 151-163; PG 37, 1239-1240]

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1077633850468I am proud to feature this interesting article by Catholic friend of the blog and frequent commenter, Michaël de Verteuil –

Of the two Patriarchs of Constantinople most closely associated with the East-West schism, Michael Cerularius (Keroularios) is clearly the lesser figure in Orthodoxy. Unlike Photius, Michael was not a great scholar and was not declared a saint after his death. As the latter schism was to become definitive, Michael correspondingly suffered more at the hands of Catholic historiography. In its more extreme forms, he stands accused of hubris, deceit, mendacity, treachery, and even homicidal intent. The purpose of this brief historical note is to offer a more nuanced picture which may help rehabilitate his reputation in the eyes of Catholic readers.

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From my favorite Orthodox blog, Prof. Peter Gilbert’s De Unione Ecclesiarum

I finally have some good news to report. Today I received an e-mail from the Managing Editor of the journal Communio, informing me that the Summer 2009 issue is now, at last, in print, and that they have decided to feature my article on “John Bekkos as a Reader of the Fathers” on their website. A link to the website, showing the contents of their current issue, is http://www.communio-icr.com/latest.htm; a permanent link to the article, in PDF format, is http://www.communio-icr.com/articles/PDF/gilbert36-2.pdf

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On the Present Apparent Conflict Between “Orthodoxy” and “Catholicism

From Dissertations on Subjects Relating to the “Orthodox” or “Eastern-Catholic” Communion (1853), by William Palmer, M.A., Fellow of St. Mary Magdalene College, Oxford, and Deacon.

As there is one God and Father, one Lord Jesus Christ, one Holy Ghost, and one Baptism, so also there is One Body of the Church, the essential attributes of which are all inseparably united together. The Church is Holy: the same Church is Catholic, or Universal: the same is Apostolic: the same is Orthodox, or rightly-believing: the same is One. If there can be two Gods, one Almighty and the other all-merciful, then there may be two Churches, one Catholic or Universal, and the other Orthodox.

Yet at a certain point of time, or between two certain points of time, we see that great body of the visible Catholic or Oecumenical Church, which from the division of the Oecumenical Roman Empire (tes oikoumenes) was distinguished superficially into two branches, Eastern and Western, Greek and Latin, without detriment to its essential unity, splitting into two separate and hostile communities, one of which insisting upon “Orthodoxy'” was nevertheless unable to enforce that Orthodoxy upon the consciences of men by the weight of manifest Catholicism, the other insisting at the time on the Roman pre-eminence and the indivisible unity of the Church (and now also upon the note of a greater appearance of Catholicism,) was little careful or able to meet the charge brought against it with regard to Orthodoxy.

The Eastern section of Christendom in condemning the Latins urged openly that they had become heterodox, and assumed or implied tacitly that therefore they could not be Catholic, while their own Eastern Church, in spite of any appearances to her disadvantage, must be also Catholic, because she was unquestionably Orthodox. The Latins retorted that having on their aide the See of Peter (to which was attached the unity and Catholicity of the Church), they must therefore, in spite of any appearances to their disadvantage, be also Orthodox, while the Easterns refusing to follow them, and so breaking off from unity, could not really have any advantage in respect of Orthodoxy, whatever appearances they might think they had in their favour.

Each side had its own strong point, on which it insisted: neither side answered fairly or adequately to the objection of the other. Each alike dissembled the point of its own apparent disadvantage, and trusted to that point on which it felt itself strong to overbalance and hide its weakness.

Under such circumstances if the two contending bodies had been at the first equal in strength the one to the other, and had remained so since, the two forces would have absolutely neutralized one another, and it would have seemed to us now that cither there is no such thing in existence as the Church of the Creed, at once Orthodox and universal, (the two destroying one another,) or else that the two conflicting bodies are both equally the Church, that is parts of the Church, their conflict and external separation being only a superficial accident and disease, and not reaching to the essential orthodoxy and Catholicity inherent in them both.

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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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