Something more dangerous than the OSB

So during my daily news browsing I came across a certain article claiming to be an “Orthodox” view of the pope-man’s visit to the US. That is something relevant (in the strictest, traditional sense of the word), you may say; and I would agree with you. But alas and alack, the article has been read and found wanting.

We start out on a good toe (I say “toe” as it goes downhill too fast to say “foot” ) with a clear title and a subtitle calling to mind the schism of which we are all aware. In the first sentence, however, all hopes are dashed against the rocks. I quote, “This past Sunday was my 4-year-old son’s first communion at our local Russian Orthodox Cathedral…” What in the world, I ask the author, was your son doing the first four years of his life without communion? If I remember correctly, one is automatically excommunicated from the Church if they do not receive communion at least once a year. Maybe he was only baptised when he was four years old? If that is the case, what was an Orthodox parent doing not baptising their child until they were four years old? Waiting for them to make their own decision about baptism?

Now, if that wasn’t a kick in the pants this is sure to be: “…here in D.C., like the Orthodox church my family attended in California decades ago, it is in the cafeteria after the service where the real truths come out.” Ok, so I’m pretty sure I can assume that the “service” spoken of here is the liturgy. Now, that being assumed, how can any orthodox person say that coffee talk and gossiping after the liturgy (the purest, and highest expression of truth in this world) can be a vehicle for “real truths?”

On this train of tepidity goes… Concerning the history of the Church we read: “It (the Orthodox Church) hews more closely than most faiths to its ancient theological roots, which stem from the beginnings of Christianity.” An Orthodox Christian wrote this line??? That is not all in this little history lesson: “Included in its communion are the ancient patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem (and now Moscow).” So what happened to the patriarchates of Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Georgia?

Moving on to modern history we read the following about that infamous event in “ecumenical” history, i.e. the meeting between Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul: “In the Orthodox retelling of that event, it was a watershed moment, leading to some first real steps towards reconciliation.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that watershed bursting on me… Let me remind you of a better reading of that “historical” meeting: “The Tradition of the Church and the example of the Holy Fathers teach us that the Church holds no dialogue with those who have separated themselves from Orthodoxy. Rather than that, the Church addresses to them a monologue inviting them to return to its fold through rejection of any dissenting doctrines.” and further “No union of the Roman Church with us is possible until it renounces its new doctrines, and no communion in prayer can be restored with it without a decision of all churches…”

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a truckload of OSBs over such an article in a magazine of such widespread distribution and readership as this.

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4 thoughts on “Something more dangerous than the OSB

  1. Well, St. Mark of Ephesus disagreed with this summation of “the example of the Holy Fathers” as he dialogued with the Roman Catholics for quite a long time; he did not arrive in Florence with a monologue.

    Now, after an erring brother refuses correction numerous times St. Paul advises us to no longer ‘argue’. This is similar to the treatment Patriarch Jeremias II gave to the Lutherans – dialoguing and then finally cutting it off when clear it wasn’t leading anywhere.

    A new round of dialogue may be possible each generation; one cannot simply say ‘we spoke with your church 100 years ago and said all we had to say and will say no more’. While dialogue should not be an end unto itself (as in much modern ecumenism), it is something that is called for as long as it may be fruitful and until it reaches a point where it ossifies an erring brother’s position making them responsible for errors that are too great and perhaps too unchangeable.

  2. On this topic, generally, I would recommend a look at Father James K. Graham’s article from Sophia (Journal of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton), Winter 2008 (pp. 26-28) discussing the late Archbishop Elias Zoghby’s thoughts on union between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. Interesting. It can be found here:

    Also interesting is the question as to whether Orthodoxy really practices “just” a theory of ‘first among equals’ in its ecclesiology. To what degree are the ancient rights of the Patriarch of Alexandria (noted by an Ecumenical Council) not consistent with being “simply” the first among equals? It is my understanding that the Patriarch of Moscow also holds centralized power far beyond a mere first among equals – though the Patriarch of Serbia does not. Perhaps we Orthodox too easily dismiss the idea of power in primacy when discussing the papacy considering our own ecclesiology. The question then becomes what sort of primacy is allowed the first see, especially when there is no longer an Emperor to ‘call’ or ‘enforce’ the decrees of Ecumenical Councils – as was the case for at least the Seven undisputed ECs.

    I note these things, because the fact that an Archbishop in communion with Rome could safely write such things would never be known apart from dialogue and because it is only in dialogue that we Orthodox would be faced with a question concerning our own knee-jerk referral to Rome as ‘merely’ primes inter pares when our own Patriarchs are often much more than ‘just’ this – they hold real primacy. This is a fact about ourselves that we have missed and only comes up when considering what we Orthodox think about primacy as defined and excercised in the post-Schsim Roman Catholic church.

    While I think there are practically insurmountable obstacles to a union of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, I think dialogue has happened over the centuries making Met. Philaret incorrect in his assertion. Good can come of a balanced, care-filled conversation; good that is also likely important for us as we try and understand the blind spots in our own ecclesiology (as the current OCA crisis underlines, and as did the ROCOR/MP split as well as the jurisdictional disputes between the EP, on one hand, and Moscow and the Church of Greece, on the other, at various times.)

  3. I believe that you are right in submitting that what St. Mark was conducting was a dialogue as they were actually discussing things and coming to conclusions. At that time I think it was still actually possible for a reunion to take place.

    However, in the case of Patriarch Jeremias I would say that this was a monologue (of the type Met. Philaret describes) of stating the beliefs of the Orthodox Church and underlining where the Lutherans were wrong.

    Moving forward to the modern situation I think that it is unwise to conduct “dialogues” every hundred years or so. This is exactly the place where clear teaching and strict definitions need to be made. Submitting to such dialogues can communicate that the Orthodox are lacking something. (Of course every Orthodox person is lacking something, but that is dealt with within the Church and not outside of it.) The purpose of many such modern “ecumenical” dialogues seem to be to come to conclusions on matters of doctrine which for Orthodox has been pretty well defined.

    At present I don’t have time to read the article you linked to but it does look rather interesting.

  4. I forgot something…

    I do think it is necessary to have a representation of the Orthodox at various ecumenical functions so as to be a witness to truth. As Archpriest Alexander Lebedev stated concerning such involvement,

    “We are satisfied with the Moscow Patriarchate signing a document in which it denounced all harmful sides of ecumenism, such as syncretism, common liturgical prayer with the non-Orthodox, and everything that may blur Orthodox ecclesiology. Of course most our fellow churchmen would welcome Moscow Patriarchate leaving the World Council of Churches because we regard its involvement with the WCC as confusing. Yet the reasons for this involvement have become much clearer to us. We realize that it is based not upon a desire to share in non-Orthodox prayers or a belief that there are other Churches besides the One Church.”

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