Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Pope and the Patriarch

The Pope's recent visit with the Patriarch of Constantinople has caused some confusion in the media, not only about his alleged "concelebration," but also about it being a "meeting of equals." Friends have told me, "You Orthodox have a Pope, too; you just call him a 'Patriarch.'" In light of this, I was happy for this clarification written by Fr. James Deschene of Christminster Monastery (a Benedictine Western Rite monastery under ROCOR) in a letter a few years ago:

[The media] perpetuate the widespread but erroneous notion that Patriarch Bartholomew is to the world of Orthodox Christianity what the pope of Rome is to Roman Catholicism. To call the patriarch the spiritual leader of all Orthodox Christians is about as accurate - and as meaningful - as calling the American president the moral leader of the free world. The label has a symbolic meaning, and the position has even some influence. But in neither case does the man have any legal power or authority outside his own jurisdiction. Another nation may freely affirm support for some policy of the American president. But the American president is not otherwise entitled to speak for other nations or to determine their policies apart from their conceding to him their agreement, which they are always and rightly free to withhold.

This is almost exactly parallel to the situation of the ecumenical patriarch. He may express his own mind and policy, but this is of no legal authority or effect in any Orthodox church outside his own (i.e., of Constantinople) unless and until those Orthodox churches freely affirm that policy and support it. He does not, in any legal or official sense of the term, speak for the Orthodox world, any more than George Bush legally speaks for the free world...

Westerners, influenced by the sovereign and monarchical nature of the Roman papacy, are too ready to assume an equivalent authority and power to be vested in one Orthodox figure - i.e., the ecumenical patriarch. But Orthodoxy, unlike Roman Catholicism, believes in the sovereignty and authority of each independent Orthodox church (such as the Greek, Russian, Serbian, Antiochian, etc.) and its college or congress of bishops.

Thus, while the Roman pope is, by the law and constitution of his own church, empowered to act in a sovereign and absolute manner over all of Roman Catholicism, no one figure in the Orthodox world possesses such authority or power. Hence, while the pope, if he wished, could unilaterally decree that he considers the schism with the Orthodox world to be ended, there is no one person on the Orthodox side who could unilaterally do the same, or even accept in the name of all Orthodoxy the pope's decision.

Admittedly, this makes certain decisions and policies hard to arrive at since the Orthodox must achieve a consensus of the whole Orthodox body. But it has also protected the treasury of Orthodox belief and worship from the kind of tampering and dilution one has seen in the western churches over the last few generations. Orthodoxy, in the words of the psalmist, does not put its trust in princes - even spiritual princes - but in the Lord who, being himself the Truth ("I am the way, the truth, and the life") guards his people from error and falsehood.

For more on the Orthodox Church's ecclesiology, see this essay by Bp. HILARION of Vienna (Moscow Patriarchate), though not all Orthodox would agree with all he has to say. (The same could be said of any theologoumenon in any essay by anyone.)

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Fr. Fenton is On the Air!

You can now hear the journey of our friend Fr. John Fenton, former pastor of Zion Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), on "Come Receive the Light." You can listen listen today via the internet.

You can also read about his journey here:
Part I.

Fr. Fenton will head up the newest Western Rite mission in the Antiochian WR Vicariate.


Friday, December 01, 2006

The Pope and the Patriarch on Western Tradition

Pope Benedict XVI and His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW I issued a joint statement following their meetings. Among its statements is this:
As Pastors, we have first of all reflected on the mission to proclaim the Gospel in today’s world. This mission, “Go, make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19), is today more timely and necessary than ever, even in traditionally Christian countries. Moreover, we cannot ignore the increase of secularization, relativism, even nihilism, especially in the Western world. All this calls for a renewed and powerful proclamation of the Gospel, adapted to the cultures of our time. All this calls for a renewed and powerful proclamation of the Gospel, adapted to the cultures of our time. Our traditions represent for us a patrimony which must be continually shared, proposed, and interpreted anew.
That sounds like an important rationale and commendation of the Western Rite, especially in its traditional Latin liturgy (the much-derided "Tridentine" Mass of St. Gregory).

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Dual Papal Visit?

I am re-watching the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy this afternoon, and I see Fr. John Chryssavgis said, "Pope Benedict the 15th is praying along." He may well be, off-camera.

Let's Cut the Crap

It seems 99 percent of Orthodox blogs are dedicated to defining the higher theological realms of truth or pontificating on the precise rubrics and the shade of rose vestment to be worn. While preparing such a post, Julio Gurrea, says he had a "spiritual gut check" and found himself lacking, not in the faith, but in living it. Returning to his words:

I don’t have problems of the faith. I have a problem with the type of faith I have.

I have the faith of a demon.

He adds:

I’m starting to wish I had never learned words like “hesychasm,” “monologic self-repeating perpetual prayer of the heart,” “energies/essence,” “penal substitution theory of the atonement,” “hermeneutic,” or “ceasaropapism.” In short, I wish I’d never learned a word that I could use as a weapon towards someone else or as a way of making myself feel like my praxis-less Christianity actually means something.

In other words, let's quit talking about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin if we have a disordered soul. Would that all Orthodox internet experts had such humility!

He has good advice for those seeking to get back on the path:

I will, however, offer a tip to others who see the same demonic faith in their hearts and know that it is an aberration.

Here goes: don’t try to just get rid of one sin or “stop doing [blank]” in your efforts to draw closer to God. It doesn’t work. Drawing closer to God is a positive thing, not a matter of not doing something. What is required from you is an active reordering of your life into a God-ward pattern. You may even find yourself having to rearrange your work schedule in order to get home earlier to pray without falling asleep and going to bed at a different time so that you can wake up with enough time left over actually pray. If you keep the...framework of your current life and say, “I’m gonna do all this stuff I currently do minus yelling at my kids...etc.,” trust me, you are going to mess up...Re-order your life. Tell you what, I’ll try to take my own advice starting… now… and maybe we can pray for each other. I know I certainly can’t do it by myself.

A monk once told me the path to repentance is less about fleeing evil that it is pushing out evil with good.

And the good news is, none of us is ever alone in this struggle, Deo gratias!

Update: I see our friend (and an outstanding blogger) Fr. Matthew Thurman had a similar (though more tastefully titled) post about the importance of Confession. Let's all dedicate ourselves to the spiritual life, and curb 'net use if need be if it conflicts with that.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It Ain't No Concelebration

Before going to bed tonight, I'm catching some of the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy in St. George Cathedral in Constantinople, which the Roman Catholic commentators on EWTN insist on terming a "concelebration" between His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW I and Pope Benedict XVI. I was pleased that the chanters had not completed the Great Doxology before guest commentator Fr. John Chryssavgis (Greek Orthodox) "clarified" what was happening: the Pope isn't concelebrating. He didn't wear his welcome thin by indicating to the other commentators on his network that the Pope is not concelebrating, because Orthodox canon law would not permit it. But remember, no matter what you hear, it positively is not a concelebration.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Probably More "Nutty" Than "Gooey"....


Nutty and gooey - you always satisfy.