Diptychs

No, I don’t mean two icons linked side-by-side with a hinge to stand on your mantelpiece, although that’s very nice!

These Diptychs (misspelled on the actual PDF linked from this page!) play an important role in Church history, but most (canonical) Orthodox never actually see or hear them, because they’re only part of Liturgies served by a Patriarch or other Autocephalous Primate … and even then, of course, mostly in languages they don’t speak, such as Koine Greek, Church Slavonic, or Old Arabic, although if you have any familiarity with Modern Greek, a Slavic language, or Modern Arabic, you may be able to ‘decode’ what you’re hearing if present … especially if you know to expect it when it comes around.

I’ve been present at a number of Liturgies served by The OCA’s Metropolitans THEODOSIUS and HERMAN in recent years (at St. Tikhon’s Monastery in Pennsylvania), and it’s always neat to hear such evocation of the whole Orthodox Church, in person as it were. IIRC the Diptychs actually come up at least twice during a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy served by a Patriarch or Autocephalous Primate. Usually I’ve heard them chanted by the Primate himself, read from a large book held by a deacon in front of the Holy Doors in the middle of the iconostasis. But at the 2002 St. Tikhon’s Monastery Pilgrimage HDL on Memorial Day (Monday), at least once they were chanted by the deacon and echoed by the choir, I believe in the form listed on the PDF, ie, with the words “Many Years” at the end of each one. That was majestic!

A year ago when the Pope of Rome visited Istanbul, the Liturgy with Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW on TV included the Diptychs also, but not in a form I could follow well with my year of Protestant seminary Greek!

‘Diptych politics’? (aka “poli(dip)tychs”):

  • First of all, this is what various accounts mean when they talk about “commemorating;” actually it’s praying for each other by name, as you can see on the PDF … a version of what every priest or Auxiliary Bishop does when he prays for his Ruling Hierarch (and sometimes also his jurisdictional primate or Patriarch, and any other Bishops who may be present at that Liturgy) by name … or every Ruling Hierarch, his primate/Patriarch, etc. In the Diptychs, Patriarchs and Autocephalous Primates pray for others with whom they consider themselves in communion, representing other Local Churches with whom they consider themselves in communion. They also delete them when they consider themselves not in communion with them, as Rome and Constantinople did after the mutual excommunications in 1054, as Moscow did with C’ople for a while in the 1990s during their dispute over jurisdiction in Estonia, and as C’ople did with Greece briefly a couple years ago over Greece’s administration of C’ople’s churches in the “New Lands,” in the north of that country.
  • Conspicuous by his absence from Patriarch Bartholomew’s Diptychs last year would’ve been OCA Metr. Herman, not recognized as an Autocephalous Primate by Constantinople, but as merely a Bishop within the Patriarchate of Moscow, the OCA’s original mission-sending Church (and hence “canonical” in C’ople’s eyes since its recognition in 1990, after the OCA and MP reconciled in 1970). I noted when Herman visited Bartholomew in 2003, that for reasons never specified by the OCA, the two never served services together as I would expect; instead, they “attended” a couple services together, and Herman “received Holy Communion” at one, at the closed seminary on Halki Island, presumably with a small worshiping congregation … although I would expect an Orthodox Bishop even ‘merely attending’ a service to be commemorated by the cleric serving it, as I have witnessed many times at St. Tikhon’s with Liturgies served by priests in the presence of different Bishops non-serving. I wonder how they handled that?
  • On the PDF, it seems the OCA commemorates Bartholomew as “His Holiness,” to my knowledge following the usage of Moscow, and not “His All-Holiness” according to the usage of the Greeks under Constantinople’s jurisdiction.
  • Some of the names on the PDF are Anglicized, others are not, and some AFAIK do not lend themselves to Anglicization (Christodoulos, Anastasios).
  • Since the Primate of Georgia in the Caucasus actually has two titles, Catholicos and Patriarch, I’ve seen him referred to elsewhere as “His Holiness and Beatitude,” or vice-versa, but the PDF just uses Holiness. (Georgia seems to have deleted the brief English version of its website.)
  • Sometimes hearing the Diptychs is like stuff “torn from today’s headlines,” such as when I witnessed Herman having deleted the just-deposed Patriarch Irenaios of Jerusalem in 2005. (Temporary administrators or locum tenentes of vacant patriarchal or primatial Sees apparently aren’t commemorated.)
  • Since the century-old Catholic Encyclopedia doesn’t mention this kind of diptych usage, it seems that the Popes of Rome hadn’t done it in many centuries, not even with Eastern Catholic full patriarchs in communion with them, ie, Maronite, Melkite, Syrian, Armenian, and Coptic. I’m not certain about today though.
  • Sometimes non-canonical groups claim to be in communion with Orthodoxy, and some even commemorate Bartholomew in their own services. But the proof is in whether they are commemorated *by* recognizable Orthodoxy, whether directly by the name of their “primate,” or indirectly through the name of the recognizable Patriarch or Autocephalous Primate who acknowledges them as part of his Local Church. If not, they are not considered any part of recognizable Orthodoxy *by* recognizable Orthodoxy.** This is why the ultimate question to ask a group is Who is your Ruling Hierarch? or Who is his Patriarch or Autocephalous Primate? If they’re not listed on the PDF, they are not considered any part of the recognizable Orthodox Church.**
    • (**–Normally, that is! In cases of hopefully temporary deletion as above, get back to them – or someone else – after a little while to see if there’s any ‘clarification’ of the situation, if you can’t find a more reliable, ‘safe’ jurisdiction near you. Of course, C’ople considered Bulgaria in schism from the 1870s till the 1940s [though Russia did not], and Russia for a century and a half after it rejected the Union of Florence as noted above. Sometimes The Truth is a matter of process in Orthodoxy, not always cut-and-dried instant ‘black-and-white’ answers. I’m no spiritual father, monk, priest, or Bishop, so consult around with reliable sources, and basically just Do Your Best. Consider the traditional rule of journalism: Check every story with at least two sources! BTW, this isn’t what one famous writer once called “ecclesiology of subordination” or words to that effect, like asking “Who are you ‘under’?” as in “under C’ople” or “under Moscow” or “under Romania” or whatever – though it’s often still expressed that way. I think that talk comes from the expression “under a bishop’s omophorion,” that is to say, his authority or archpastorship or leadership. Usually it comes down to a Church overseas, or a Patriarch overseas, as if not all [big-C] Churches are equal but some are “under” others, or as if Patriarchs do anything that significant on their own authority without their Synods. But a real Orthodox parish is a subdivision of a bishopric with a Ruling Hierarch, and all bishoprics – dioceses, metropolises, etc. – are part of a larger Local Church; canonical Orthodoxy has no stand-alone parishes or dioceses! This is all you’re asking. The Ruling Hierarch embodies his diocese; the Patriarch or Autocephalous Primate embodies his cluster of dioceses … and through the Diptychs all are ‘represented.’
      • A further problem, if you don’t consult widely or rightly enough, is exemplified by the fact that I don’t see a whole lot of discussion on the WWW [apart from here] about why or how certain Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches consider The OCA “canonical but not autocephalous.” I once had a Web discussion with someone I thought was well-informed, who seemed genuinely surprised to learn that the OCA “traces its orders to Russia” or words to that effect – as though he’d thought they were some start-up ‘Internet jurisdiction’ or something. But others, particularly some older cradle Orthodox, simply seem not ‘updated’ on the OCA’s recognition by C’ople et al. since 1990.
      • Yet again, some groups claim past or even ongoing relationships of various kinds with canonical jurisdictions or bishops, “concelebration” or their “orders recognized,” or that their priests or bishops even provided vacation relief for a canonical jurisdiction’s priests, etc. I don’t have any explanation for any of this – that’s Bishops’ responsibility – except to say Play It Safe.)
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