Archive for May, 2008

Fr Paul, the English Catholic priest who has left many thoughtful comments both at Cathedra Unitatis and here at Eirenikon, has written a remarkable post over at De unione ecclesiarum on the ecclesiological, ecumenical and sacramental implications of the “Timisoara Incident”.

It is not my place to say whether it was in the event helpful to the cause of ecumenism for the Metropolitan to choose this course of action. It is even less my place to say whether it was right from an Orthodox point of view to infringe the discipline of his Church in view of what, as I said at the beginning, we must presume he believed to be a greater good. I have said why, as a Catholic, I believe that it was right for his request to receive communion from a Catholic altar to be granted. Some will see his gesture as a prophetical sign destined one day to bear fruit by the very reason of its provocative nature. Others will say it is well-intentioned but in reality premature and counter-productive. Others still will think it scandalous and sacrilegious. It is not given to me to know which judgement is correct. Only let those who cry “scandal” remember that scandal in its theological meaning is not, as in common parlance, the shock which an action causes to our sensibilities and our comfortable presuppositions, but that which causes us to sin. And let them ask themselves whether complacency in the face of a divided Christendom is not a sin, however much it hides behind rhetoric about not sacrificing truth to gain unity. In the end, truth and unity are the same thing; sin against unity damages our ability to see the fullness of truth.

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The Anastasis Project and Byzantine, Texas both report that Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan Nicholae (Corneanu) of Banat recently received Holy Communion from the hand of Romanian Greek-Catholic Bishop Alexandru (Mesian) of Lugoj, at the consecration of a Romanian Greek-Catholic parish in Timisoara.

Catholic World News broke the story. 

I shudder in anticipation of Orthodox responses. Doamne miluieşte.

In other Romanian Catholic news, De unione ecclesiarum reports that Holy Resurrection Monastery in Newberry Springs, California, has decided to move to a new property in western New Jersey. May God bless and prosper the monks.

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Fun with search terms

Search engines lead folks to this blog in all sorts of interesting ways. Here’s a sampling of search terms for the past week:

  • “not with us” “against us” -bush
  • orthodox david bentley hart
  • hilarion russian orthodox ecumenism
  • orthodox priests crypto catholics
  • orthodoxy large castle patrick reardon
  • fathers of the church ecclesiology
  • patriarch gregorios iii
  • new catechumen whips lax parish
  • quotes on the normans invasion
  • vatican and new marian dogma
  • christianity god jesus body unity head
  • orthodox purgatory “spe salvi”
  • giza death star
  • hilarion vassula
  • thomistic ecclesiology
  • blagoslovi vladyko
  • catholics and orthodox reunion in 2008
  • nazi saucers
  • what is orthodox

Yes, this blog is a weird and wonderful world! :-)

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The Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies

“Overcoming the Schism,” Chicago, May 8-10, 1998

Fr. Hugh Barbour, O. Praem.

In August of 1994, I was happy to be one of the many Latin clerics who over the years, in divisa or in borghese, have made a pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain of Athos, the Garden of the Mother of God. On the feast of the Lord’s Transfiguration I was able to set foot on that peninsula where souls and bodies hidden from the world, but known to God and His angels, share still in the bright glory of that mystery narrated in the Holy Gospels. I made this pilgrimage with the blessing of my abbot after attending an international meeting of some clergy. On Athos I expected to be refreshed and edified, and I was, after having had to breathe deeply the “schismatic” atmosphere of a sadly typical postconciliar gathering of ecclesiastics, some of whom were merely juridically Roman Catholic, for whom God and the things of God could scarcely be said to hold the primacy, and the Pope not at all.

In a shop by the docks at the little western port of the Mountain I found a postcard representation of an icon depicting a touching and curious scene: “The Lamentation over Constantine Palaiologos” written at the Old Calendarist hesychasterion of the Mother of God of the Myrtle Tree in Attica. In the icon the emperor reposes on a bier with a candle as two women mourn on either side, one kneeling, written as “Orthodoxy” and the other, “Hellas”, standing with her hand to her mouth in a gesture of reverence, calling to mind the original sense of the imperial Roman adoratio. A touching scene, I say, because it brings to mind the magnificent “courage born of despair,” as even the malicious Gibbon puts it, with which the last of the Roman emperors died leading the defense of his New Rome, yet still a curious one, since this Constantine XII died in communion with the see of Old Rome, having received the Eucharistic viaticum on the morning of the halosis at a uniate liturgy, the last to be served in the Church of Holy Wisdom.

Even more curious was the figure “Hellas” for nothing could be less Byzantine, less Orthodox, less imperial, than the use of this term to name the nation of Greek-speaking Romaioi. To Orthodox Byzantium “hellenic” meant secular, pagan, something worse than heterodox, to be anathematized in the synodikon on the first Sunday of Great Lent. At the time of the fall of the City a “hellene” was one who exceeded even the utilitarian impiety of the Florentine latinophrones by promoting the Florentine Platonic revival.

The figure of Orthodoxy, undoubtedly the most important in the image, was in very strange company indeed, with anomalies more than anachronistic. That this icon was the work of Old Calendarists who clearly intended it to be the expression of a rigorously Orthodox historical sensibility indicates a fact, more relevant than ever, which those of us – inter quos ego – who sympathize with the zealots, Catholic and Orthodox, must keep in mind. It is this: We must be vigilant to ensure that in our understanding and defense of right belief and right worship we do not adopt the ideological preoccupations of political and philosophical movements, sometimes those of our friends and allies, which are foreign to our faith and its tradition, lest we undermine the very thing we are striving to preserve. We must examine carefully the understanding and instincts of the best representatives of our twin tradition, Eastern and Western, especially at the points in history when they are explicitly opposing each other or together combating the same contemporary errors. The happy result of this can be a genuine ecumenism, an ecumenism of the “anti-ecumenical,” innocent of ideology or indifferentism. Dom Gerard Calvet, abbot of the traditional Benedictine abbey of the Madeleine, Le Barroux in Provence has said: “The true ecumenism is that of Tradition… the more I deepen my understanding of Tradition, the more I rediscover other men.” [1]


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Josephus at Byzantine, TX has the story. This is not at all surprising. What Catholics need to understand is that this all has to do with old intra-Orthodox squabbles and major tensions within Orthodox ecclesiology. Which, I suppose, means that Orthodoxy should get on to the same ecclesiological page before adding Rome’s particular ecclesiological vision to the mix (although it’s hard to envision any mechanism by which contemporary Orthodoxy could come to any such universal agreement).

The text of the Ravenna Document can be found at the old blog, Cathedra Unitatis.

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I have been remiss in posting about the recent act of reunion between the Assyrian Diocese of Mar Bawai Soro and the Chaldean Catholic Church in union with Rome. The Mar Bawai Soro blog, as well as the Ab Oriente Weblog (written by Anthony, a subdeacon under Mar Bawai Soro), has assembled a great deal of information about this event.

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Here’s a very helpful summary of what the Roman Catholic Church teaches about what the Church of Jesus Christ is, and who belongs to her. From Caelum et Terra.

For an Orthodox take (but certainly not the Orthodox take), see Fr Georges Florovsky’s 1933 essay “The Limits of the Church”.

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The other aspect of the ad extra mission of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church is its role in the ecumenical journey towards Christian unity.

Our Church has always been conscious of this role. The history of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church of Antioch, in full communion for close on three hundred years with the Church of Rome that “presides in love,” has been marked by many vexations. In particular, it has had to live in the catacombs for about one hundred and thirty years. Indeed, we are a Church of martyrs and confessors of the faith, especially in Lebanon and Syria. There are, standing before you, Most Holy Father, descendants of martyrs.

These were martyrs for unity, martyrs of communion with Rome, that communion which was, and still is for us, an historic, existential choice for commitment, that is both effectual and emotional, a definitive and irreversible constituent of glory and humility.

However, that communion with Rome does not separate us from our Orthodox ecclesial reality. We say this with profound humility, a deep ecumenical awareness and a touch of humour: we are an Orthodox Catholic Church.


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“It’s funny because it’s true!”Homer Simpson

I’m sure our Roman Catholic brethren have similar experiences of over-enthusiastic converts …

(Via Byzantine Texas)

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From Wei-Hsein Wan of Torn Notebook, chock full of brilliant quotes from great lights of the Church, both Eastern and Western, ancient and contemporary:

Church Unity and Legitimate Variance, Part II: Two Other Voices

For as, in the case of one and the same quantity of water, there is separated from it, not only the residue which is left behind by the hand when drawing it, but also those drops, once contained in the hand, which trickle out through the fingers; so also there is a separation between us and, not only those who hold aloof in their impiety, but also those who are most pious, and that both in regard to dogmas of small importance (peri dogmaton mikron), which can be disregarded (parorasthai axion), and also in regard to expressions intended to bear the same meaning. – Saint Gregory the Theologian

If we apply to our present situation what St. Gregory and St. Basil have said about their own age, we will see that they were in fact much more “liberal” than the most advanced “ecumenists” of today. Neither Gregory nor Basil regarded the disagreement on the question of the divinity of the Holy Spirit as an obstacle for reconciliation among the Churches; nor did they claim that those who did not confess the Spirit as God were outside the Church. Moreover, it was a common practice in the fourth century—indeed, approved by St. Basil—to accept Arians into the Church through repentance, not requiring baptism or chrismation. In our own times some Orthodox say that Roman Catholics, being “heretics”, are outside the Church, and should be rebaptised when received into Orthodoxy. Yet neither Catholics nor Protestants would deny the divinity of the Son of God, as did the Arians, not would they deny the divinity of the Holy Spirit, as did most fourth-century theologians and bishops. And surely the question of the procession of the Holy Spirit is less significant than the question of his divinity. To regard today’s Catholics and Protestants as “pseudo-churches” is totally alien to the spirit of the ancient Church Fathers such as Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian. Their understanding of the divisions among the Churches was much more dynamic and multi-dimensional, and much less rigid. Many divisions between the Churches could be healed if contemporary theologians used the methodology advanced by St. Gregory. – Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Vienna

Church Unity and Legitimate Variance, Part III: Truth and Our Will to Unity

…[W]e must learn that unity, for its part, is a Christian truth, an essentially Christian concept, of so high a rank that it can be sacrificed only to safeguard what is most fundamental, not where the way to it is obstructed by formulations and practices that, however important they be, do not destroy community in the faith of the Fathers and in the basic form of the Church as they saw her. – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Church Unity and Legitimate Variance, Part IV: Love, the Language of Truth, and the Will to Include

… Insofar as the unity to which Christians are called is a unity bound by love, our will to unity must also be a will to include rather than exclude. What I mean is that we Christians must attempt to live, speak and think in ways that enfold as many people as possible into the fellowship of the Church. This is true first of all with respect to Christians who find themselves disagreeing with one another on points of doctrine. They ought to struggle to count each other as being within the Church rather than outside her.

As I said in the first post of this series, there is today a theological maximalism in the Church that is driven by the need to exclude—to separate true believers from errant heretics. Don’t get me wrong: there are of course times when Christians have to draw boundaries between truth and falsehood, between orthodoxy and heresy. But the will to exclude cannot be our first instinct or response. In fact, even when we are forced to draw the lines, we must do so only with deep regret and sadness. God’s will for the Church, after all, is that she gather into her fold men and women “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Revelation 7.9) so that Christ might be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15.28; Ephesians 1.23). By her constitution, she tends toward inclusion. As followers of Jesus, we ought to always lean toward reaching out, toward reconciliation, toward embrace. In this way, we will be more like our Master who once defied established norms by talking to a Samaritan woman and eating with people on the margins of religious correctness. – Wan-Hsien Wan (emphasis added)

P.S. May I recommend that you vote for Torn Notebook at the Eastern Christian Blog Awards, nominated in the categories of Best Theology Blog and Best Individual Blog?

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