Archive for January, 2008


A word of caution from our good friend, Fr Paul, on Vassula Ryden:

The desire to celebrate Easter in common is a laudable one, whatever the solution adopted. A word of warning seems desirable, however, concerning Vassula and her followers. This lady may be sincerely convinced that she is receiving messages from Christ and that she is a “prophet”. It is necessary to point out though that she has been expelled from the communion of the Orthodox Church and that the RC Church does not recognize the supernatural origin of her “revelations”. These seem to me to be not only full of doctrinal errors which diverge from the Tradition received by both Churches, but to be based on claims outlandishly remote from the spirit of Christian prophecy. The latter, whether Biblical or ecclesiastical, always presupposes the conscious consent of the person to whom the charismatic gift is imparted; Vassula claims to have received at least her first “revelations” as the result of “automatic writing” reminiscent of spiritualist practices. I have also been personally the witness of division among communities caused by the actions of her followers, who sometimes use dishonest tactics in order to gain or to falsely claim the adherence of others to their cause. None of this seems likely to be the fruit of the action of the Holy Spirit. Even if the cause be a good one, I suggest that if the Vassula movement is at the origin of this petition, readers of this blog would be ill advised to lend credibility to their activities by signing it.

See also this notification on Ryden from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.

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I can unite in myself, in my own spiritual life, the thought of the East and the West, of the Greek and Latin Fathers, I will create in myself a reunion of the divided Church and from that unity in myself can come the exterior and visible unity of the Church. For if we want to bring together East and West we cannot do it by imposing one upon the other. We must contain both in ourselves, and transcend both in Christ.

Thomas Merton

Hat tip to Teófilo at Vivificat

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The life of the Church reproduces on a large scale the life of the individual soul. The Christian Church in its two thousand years of existence has gone through the same religious experience as the Christian, the same crises and the same conflict.

I want to touch upon one aspect of this interior and intimate conflict within the Church in dealing with Christian unity.

God, himself perfectly one in the Trinity, in creating a world with elements so varied and often so opposed, intended to manifest his glory and show forth his power by placing and maintaining unity in his world. Having made heaven and earth, the vegetable and animal kingdoms, the day star and the stars of night, he brought them together in harmony and order. This unity, realized according to God’s eternal designs, is the foundation of all that is good and beautiful.


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We speak increasingly of Christian unity but I wonder how many people understand what it means.

Ask a Christian, even an enlightened one, and he will almost always tell you: “If the heads of the churches reach agreement, we shall have union.”

At first sight this appears reasonable. We all have the impression that union would be achieved if the leaders of the Orthodox churches agreed with the Roman Pontiff on definitions of the Roman primacy and infallibility and if they solved some other largely verbal differences between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

But to reduce Christian unity to an agreement between the heads of the churches and make them the chief and indeed only agents of this unity is to reduce the Church of Christ to the level of ordinary human societies where the good will and intentions of a small group of men often decide the fate of nations. In other words, it means reducing the mystery of redemption which Christ himself, when about to enter his passion, summed up in the prayer for unity, to a mode of Church government and to a hierarchical mechanism determining relations between the leaders of Christendom. To look at unity in this way is to substitute churchmen for the Church, which is the mystical Body of Christ, and to substitute the various activities of human diplomacy for the life of grace in the redeemed soul.


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It would have been truly a blessing if the preaching of the Gospel had forever shone brilliantly in Christ’s Church in all its unspeculative simplicity. It would have been genuinely salvific if the seal imprinted by the invocation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit upon those undergoing regeneration through baptism had been seen by all as the one and only seal of godliness. But since Sextuses and Pyrrhons (I mean those people who, at various times, have discredited the true teachings by their argumentation) have thrown ecclesiastical matters so far off center that, on the one hand, unspeculative simplicity of faith now appears as stupidity to our theological connoisseurs and religious intelligentsia, and those who know no more than their confession of faith in the Holy Trinity are scarcely counted as belonging to our religion, while, on the other hand, variety and hyper-speculation in doctrinal matters are considered a form of wisdom and of nearness to God, perished is the blessedness of simplicity of faith, perished is the common salvation which was expected to be enjoyed once and for all by all who are imprinted with the seal of baptism; for theological divergence over the Trinity, united above all reason, and theoretical variety over the Unity, ineffably made Three, have splintered the Christian people into competing denominations.

– Patriarch John IX (Bekkos) of Constantinople
(Read more here)

Some commentary by Peter Gilbert:

… [T]his quotation from the work On Peace already shows that Bekkos is not a relativist, as some people make him out to be; he differentiates between orthodoxy and heresy, and he goes on in the book to specify what some of these heresies are. As for his understanding of catholicity, that is a more difficult question. The passage suggests that Bekkos identifies Christ’s Church, in some way, with the totality of the baptized. (St. Augustine, in his debates with the Donatists, said exactly the same thing.) There is a “common salvation, which was expected to be enjoyed once and for all by all who are imprinted with the seal of baptism.” Even though Bekkos says that this “common salvation” has “perished” (along with the “blessedness of simplicity of faith”), I sense that he is engaging in at least slight rhetorical exaggeration here. At the very least, he does not want to be too quick about defining the Church’s mystical boundaries. His business is to heal a division; he knows he cannot succeed in that task if he starts off by sharply differentiating between “us” and “them,” between what is “mine” and what is “yours,” employing “cold terms that banish godly concord.” He thinks that at least some of those differentiations have been made prematurely and stupidly, and that the Church has suffered because of it.

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RAVENNA, Italy, NOV. 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the final document of the plenary assembly of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, held Oct. 8-14 in Ravenna. The statement, which was released today, is titled “Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority.”


1. “That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17, 21). We give thanks to the triune God who has gathered us — members of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church — so that we might respond together in obedience to this prayer of Jesus. We are conscious that our dialogue is restarting in a world that has changed profoundly in recent times. The processes of secularization and globalization, and the challenge posed by new encounters between Christians and believers of other religions, require that the disciples of Christ give witness to their faith, love and hope with a new urgency. May the Spirit of the risen Lord empower our hearts and minds to bear the fruits of unity in the relationship between our Churches, so that together we may serve the unity and peace of the whole human family. May the same Spirit lead us to the full expression of the mystery of ecclesial communion, that we gratefully acknowledge as a wonderful gift of God to the world, a mystery whose beauty radiates especially in the holiness of the saints, to which all are called.


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Part I | Part II | Part III

Canon XXXIV of the Holy Apostles prescribes that the primate shall not “do anything without the advice and consent and approval of all.” But in the “Code of Canons” which John Paul II promulgated in 1990, we find the amazing claim that “Romanus Pontifex a nemine iudicatur” – the Roman Pontiff is judged by no one. This is not merely an historical inaccuracy. The Sixth Ecumenical Council, as is well known, considered itself competent to judge and anathematize Honorius of Rome, and no Pope since has ever dared attempt to overturn that decision.

The same “Code of Canons” also announces that “contra sententiam vel decretum Romani Pontificis non datur appellatio neque recursus” – there is neither appeal nor recourse against a sentence or decree of the Roman Pontiff. What should we Orthodox think about these very strong statements?


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