Posts Tagged ‘Roman Catholicism’

(Take One is here, where I ran off at the mouth for a while!)

Patriarch is one possible title for the presiding bishop or primate of a region of The Orthodox Church comprising a number of bishoprics, and/or even a number of smaller such regions.  Currently the other two possible titles are Metropolitan or Archbishop, although not all Metropolitans or Archbishops are presiding bishops of regions.

At this time Orthodoxy generally recognizes 9 Patriarchs of the following ‘home’ regions, listed in order of honorary seniority:

  1. Constantinople: northern and western Turkey, northern and eastern Greece, Semi-autonomous Church of Crete, Autonomous Church of Finland.  NB: Often referred to as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, style bestowed during the 1st Christian millennium as C’ople was capital of the (“Byzantine”/Eastern) Empire of the Romans, ie, “the  Ecumene,” even while the Pope* and Patriarch of Rome and All the West was still First Among Equals, though most of the time outside the Empire.
  2. Alexandria: continent of Africa, excluding Sinai Peninsula
  3. Antioch: (headquartered in Damascus, Syria, since Middle Ages): southern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Persian Gulf
  4. Jerusalem: Israel, West Bank, Gaza Strip, (Golan Heights?,) Jordan, rest of Arabian Peninsula, autonomous monastic Church of Sinai
  5. Moscow: former Soviet Union, except part of Caucasus (see Georgia below), Estonia (shared with Constantinople by temporary agreement), Autonomous Church of China (revival under negotiation with PRC; Hong Kong shared cooperatively with Constantinople), Autonomous Church of Japan (C’ople has a couple Greek parishes there), missions in Mongolia, North Korea
  6. Serbia: former Yugoslavia; ministry to Serbs in Romania and Albania by agreement with those Churches.
  7. Romania: that country; ministry to Romanians in Serbia by agreement with that Church.
  8. Bulgaria: that country.
  9. Georgia: that country and adjoining parts of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey.  NB: Georgia’s primate is fully titled Catholicos-Patriarch, Catholicos having been an ancient primatial title in the Caucasus and Mesopotamia.

The following regions’ chief bishops are titled Metropolitan: Poland (autocephalous), Czech Republic and Slovakia (autocephalous), Orthodox Church in America (OCA, de facto autocephalous), Ukraine (Moscow Patriarchate, autonomous), Belarus (MP, autonomous), Japan (MP, autonomous), Moldova (MP, autonomous), several provinces in Romania, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (aka ROCOR: MP, autonomous), the Ukrainian Churches of the USA and of Canada (parts of C’ople).  And the following regions’ chief bishops are titled Archbishop: Greece (ie, western Greece: autocephalous), Cyprus (autocephalous), Albania (autocephalous), Finland (C’ople, autonomous), Crete (C’ople, semiautonomous), the Greek Archdiocese of America (part of C’ople).

The title employed is a matter of local ecclesiastical tradition and evolution.  And as I mentioned, many Metropolitans and Archbishops do not head regions or clusters of bishoprics, but single bishoprics, or may even be auxiliary bishops.  But according to the common law of the Church, “A Patriarch never submits to another Patriarch,” nevermind to any other Bishop … except as equals in order of precedence or honorary seniority.  For example, if two or more Patriarchs find themselves in a meeting or church service together, the senior presides or chairs, but ideally does not ‘dictate.’

*–In Orthodox faith and practice, the title pope has never carried universal jurisdiction or significance, or even necessarily episcopacy.  Orthodoxy’s senior pope is the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, “only” second-among-equals; its other popes, ie, “Fathers,” are parish priests in Greece, Romania, and Russia [hence such common family surnames as Pappas, Popp, and Popov, respectively; St. Innocent of Alaska was born into a family of Popovs in Siberia, but since there were so many unrelated Popovs when he went to school, he was assigned a byname, Veniaminov, by which he became known exclusively].  Thus, the Pope of Rome in their eyes was never more than a brother Patriarch, senior only because Rome was the first capital of the Empire of the Romans (as affirmed on paper by Ecumenical Synods).  OTOH, in its own eyes Rome’s “pope” effectively developed another, higher level of jurisdiction, even over other Patriarchs, sometimes embodied in the fuller title “Pope of the Universal Church.”  The rest of Christianity never accepted this, even if from time to time Rome took actions in the East that came to be accepted, even acclaimed with what is sometimes called “Byzantine hyperbole.”

Why Patriarch at all?  By the middle of the 1st millennium the 5 most important or regionally-influential bishoprics in Chalcedonian Christendom had been accorded recognition as ecclesiastical “country-rulers,” or from the Greek, patri-archs: Old Rome, New Rome (C’ople), Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.  (This among several hundred Ecclesiastical Provinces, and thousands of bishoprics!)  This usage spread with Byzantine Christianity among the Serbs and Bulgarians, and eventually to the Empire of Russia, to Romania, and to Georgia.  Sometimes a new Local Orthodox Church’s primate was not called Patriarch, but “just” Metropolitan or Archbishop, only to have the higher honor of Patriarch bestowed upon him later in history.  The others listed above have not yet been “elevated” to Patriarchal status, and perhaps never will, since in modern times it seems established that a Local Orthodox Church can be autocephalous without having to be a patriarchate; in fact, Cyprus was formally affirmed as autocephalous by the Third Ecumenical Synod (the Council of Ephesus) in the 5th century, and has never been a Patriarchate.

By comparison, AFAIK Metropolitan as a distinct title was never used in Western Europe, although most Latin prelates called Archbishop are actually defined as metropolitan archbishops, that is, as chief bishops of ecclesiastical provinces.  But most Latin provinces have long since lost most of their significance in Church life to Vatican agencies and the relatively-new national and regional Bishops’ Conferences.  In my own state, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference includes resident ruling hierarchs not only of the Latin Church, but also the Ukrainian and Ruthenian (aka “Byzantine”) uniate Churches.  Similarly, some Anglican primates or archbishops are defined as metropolitans, but not as a title.  OTOH, the most historically significant Latin Patriarchs other than Rome developed thanks to the Crusades’ introduction of the Latin Church into the Near East, and continued with later honorifics for bishops in Venice, Lisbon, the West Indies (ie, colonial Spanish America), and the East Indies (ie, colonial India and vicinity); but there has never been any question of the strictly subordinate character of these other Latin patriarchs to the Pope of Rome.

[In re: “Patriarch of the West”: The page just referenced at Giga-Catholic.com actually graphically illustrates the elevation of Rome above Patriarchates, just as this one does not list Rome AS a Patriarchal See — just as some Orthodox commentators feared when Benedict XVI disused his most influential ancient title, Patriarch of the West, a couple years ago.  What they critiqued is that from the o/Orthodox perspective, far from humbling Rome’s Papal office, this move sought to rely ever more on the unaccepted claim to “Pope of the Universal Church.”  Again ISTM the Orthodox and Rome are talking past one another without realizing it.]

Historically the Latins in many countries had national Primates.  Often these were the bishops of those nations’ oldest Sees, sometimes their most important even if not oldest — and then there are England and Ireland, each with TWO primatial Sees, Canterbury and York, and Armagh and Dublin, respectively!  Baltimore was kind-of considered primatial see of the United States, although the status never developed into as big a deal as in some European countries.  These primacies were usually honorific, sometimes real chairmen of their episcopates, although sometimes in local ecclesiastical politics, or even in dealings with civil rulers, they became real leaders of their peoples.  They are now said to be on the wane worldwide, again in exchange for Bishops’ Conferences.

(“Oops, I did it again.”  Oh well, live and learn!)

It’s being noted in news coverage that Moscow Patriarch-elect KYRILL was “Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne” since shortly after the repose of Patriarch ALEXEI.  This concept is not unknown in Western Christianity … in fact, locum tenens is the traditional Latin-language term whose Greek or Slavonic counterpart I do not know, but seems commonly used by Orthodox jurisdictions in the English-speaking world at least.

A locum tenens is “the person holding the place” of another — in Christian contexts, the post of a bishop who has died, resigned, or been removed from office.  Sometimes traditionally in the case of a typical diocese, the local primate or metropolitan-archbishop would automatically become locum tenens upon the vacancy.  Sometimes he or the local synod of bishops might proceed to choose another bishop to be locum tenens more long-term, until a permanent successor takes office.  Currently in North America, Orthodox Church in America (OCA) primate, Metropolitan JONAH, is Locum Tenens of the Bulgarian Diocese, but their synod has named Eastern Pennsylvania bishop TIKHON Locum Tenens of the Western Pennsylvania diocese.*  Similarly, two of the Antiochian Archdiocese’s new local dioceses still await Bishops of their own, and so their primate, Metropolitan PHILIP, is serving as locum tenens of the Diocese of Worcester and New England, but Bishop JOSEPH of Los Angeles and the West is serving as locum tenens of the Diocese of Eagle River and the Northwest.  Relatedly, Metropolitan JONAH is also locum tenens of the OCA’s Alaska Diocese (since the retirement of Bishop NIKOLAI), but Bishop BENJAMIN of San Francisco and the West (who previously served in Alaska as a priest) is temporary Administrator of the Alaska Diocese, assisting Jonah with his responsibility.

The idea seems to be that a flock should never, or only very, very briefly if necessary depending on jurisdictional practice and guidelines, be without a shepherd in at least some capacity, considering that in o/Orthodox Christianity a Bishop is not only some kind of feudal lord or bureaucrat, but ideally spiritual father of the Church … and a local Orthodox Church, and Orthodox Christians, should always have spiritual guidance.

When it’s a Patriarchate or Autocephalous Province whose incumbent has moved on, similar procedures may be put in place, since he is not only his diocese’s spiritual father, but his region’s or country’s, and an important overseer of that Church’s central administration.  In the case of Moscow, Patriarch ALEXEI reposed on December 5, and on December 6 the Synod met and chose Metropolitan KYRILL Locum Tenens.  Thus, he remained Ruling Hierarch of the Diocese of Smolensk and Kaliningrad and Chairman of the Patriarchate’s external relations department, and also took on the Patriarchal locum tenentes, the state of being locum tenens.

Once again, the Western Christian post most comparable to Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow is Pope of Rome.  When a Pope dies (a few in the distant past have abdicated), that office is said to temporarily cease to exist, the state known in Latin as Sede Vacante, vacant See or Throne, a state accompanied by elaborate activities around the actual, dramatic suspension of Roman Catholic Church and Vatican State activity except the burial of the late Pope and election of his successor, as amply covered by newsmedia.  Some Latin commentators have even ventured that the RCC itself temporarily ceases to exist, since the Church is in the reigning Pope, there.  And this takes weeks or longer, especially in the age before telecommunications and air travel.  In the meantime leading Cardinals in Rome assume temporary administration of these activities, but to my knowledge, Locum Tenens theory is not technically employed: the Diocese of Rome and the churches in communion with it are without an actual shepherd for as long as it takes to elect a replacement.  I would gladly be corrected on this point; it seems to be a different approach, a different theory, a different attitude, a different theology, from Orthodoxy.

Locum Tenens theory early on was subject to abuse: an early Church council issued a Canon condemning locum tenens — obviously lower-ranking hierarchs — who used the temporary post to lobby for election to the vacant See as a means of careerist promotion not necessarily in that diocese’s or province’s own best interests.  Remember that this was also a time when local dioceses almost everywhere had the tradition of electing or nominating their Bishops, usually from among their own local clergy or laymen (even primatial or patriarchal Sees), more rarely from outside their own locality or district, and when provincial synods had the tradition of extremely reluctantly translating Bishops from one post to another  (normally a Bishop “married” his Church for life, and still today Orthodox refer to a vacant See as “widowed”), by Canon only in a case of anticipated extraordinary benefit to the destination-diocese.  So bishops maneuvering like chess pieces, angling for “promotion,” was officially heavily frowned upon; even today I don’t hear about bishop transfers in Orthodoxy nearly as much as I did as a Catholic … for good or for ill.

OTOH, locum tenentes of the Patriarchal Throne of Moscow seemed to be  all who held that whole Church together during the very darkest times under Communism.  Moscow’s 1917-1918 Council restored the Patriarchal dignity allowed to lapse by Tsar Peter “the Great” in the early 1700s.  St. Tikhon (Bellavin), former Archbishop of North America, was elected Patriarch by lot just in time to deal with the first flush of Revolutionary rule.  He was martyred in 1925, and leadership of the Church passed to locum tenens, Metropolitan St. Peter of Krutitsy, himself martyred in 1937.  When St. Peter was arrested at the end of 1925, deputy locum tenens, Metropolitan Sergius, effectively became primate of the Church under Peter’s nominal or technical locum tenentes, until assuming the full locum tenentes upon a premature report of Peter’s death in prison in 1936.  It wasn’t until 1943 that Stalin, feeling the need of the Church’s support for the war effort, allowed Sergius’ election as Patriarch, and lessened its harsh treatment.

(*–His Late Eminence Archbishop KYRILL led both dioceses simultaneously.  In November the assembly of the West. Pa. diocese nominated a priest-monk with area roots, Archimandrite Melchisedek [Pleska], for consideration by the Synod possibly in May to become their new Ruling Hierarch.)

What’s a Patriarch?

The election just announced (“Новым Патриархом стал митрополит Кирилл” — with an icon streaming myrrh right there in the church in Moscow! More here and here temporarily. Good short biography here.) of a new Patriarch for around half of the world’s quarter-billion or more Eastern Orthodox Christians (after the repose last month of His Holiness Patriarch ALEXEI II of Moscow, All Rus, “and the Far North” as it was classically described at least once) — Metropolitan KYRILL of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Russia, widely considered the “frontrunner” (God grant you Many Years, Your Holiness!) — might raise the question of what an Orthodox Patriarch actually is.

And myself coming from a Latin background and living in the West, addressing mostly others living in the West, in English, very familiar with the Pope of Rome — if you’ll permit me, I’ll start off by saying that an Orthodox Patriarch is not normally a “little Pope” whose word is law among those whose Patriarch he is.  Although like all Orthodox Bishops he is officially a leading teacher of Orthodoxy, he does not “develop doctrine,” alone or with anybody else, but merely teaches together with his brother Bishops “that which was handed down from the Apostles,” ie, Holy Tradition (traditio, handing down), including Holy Scripture.

The Orthodox Church is organized into clusters of dioceses, a Tradition established after the First Ecumenical Synod aka the Council of Nicea in AD 325.  No Orthodox Bishop in communion with The Orthodox Church stands alone, but with his brother Bishops, normally on a geographic basis.  (The best comparison for our purposes might be the Anglican Communion’s normative structure, with separate Church Provinces in different countries or regions, each led by its bishops collectively as equals, based on this tradition.)  Such a cluster might be called an ecclesiastical province, a catholicosate (historically), a patriarchate, or other terms such as National Church, Local Church (with a big-L and a big-C), jurisdiction, or simply Church.  And some of these may be ‘clusters of clusters.’

Normally the Ruling Hierarch of the political capital, largest city, or leading diocese, serves as ex officio chairman of the Bishops of that cluster of dioceses — First Among Equals — as well as overseeing its central administrative offices and functionaries, providing stability and focus for the whole Church in that cluster.  Traditionally his diocese was called that cluster’s metropolis, and he, its Metropolitan, or Metropolitan Archbishop.  Today some are instead called Archbishop, primate, or Patriarch.*  In a cluster of clusters, still one of the primates is traditionally ex officio presiding bishop of the whole, with seniority over fellow Bishops of equal rank … although often in such a case the chief bishop is titled Patriarch, so it’s clear.  Orthodox have never recognized any Bishop with greater seniority than a patriarch, and maintain the ancient dictum, “A patriarch never submits to another patriarch,” but takes his turn in the traditional established order of seniority even among patriarchs, as an equal.

(This, naturally, is the [big-T] Traditional problem — ecclesiopolitically if you will — with the claim of the Patriarch of Rome to jurisdiction over other Patriarchs, even back when he was First Among Equal Patriarchs.  “Pope” was never recognized as a rank higher than Patriarch outside the Western Patriarchate; in fact, Christendom’s other Pope, he of Alexandria, Egypt — no unimportant city in the Roman Empire or the later Church — has never aspired to what Orthodox have come to call papalism, that universal, immediate, ordinary, supreme, full jurisdiction over every Christian, asserted by Rome.  Nevermind all the other problems with Rome’s claims, which are not the topic of this post!  BTW, Orthodox Bishops have differing titles, “ranks,” and seniority, only for purposes of order, honor to the dioceses they lead, and varying responsibilities.  That is to say, at every meeting of them their speaking order and chairmanship is predetermined, with the aim of making things run smoother than otherwise; also who presides at a Liturgy with more than one Bishop present.  And a Bishop’s basic responsibilities may be as an auxiliary bishop, or else a Ruling Hierarch, which latter may along with that serve as provincial primate, or primate of a cluster of provinces.)

Today 9  of Orthodoxy’s local primates are Patriarchs, those of Constantinople (Istanbul), Alexandria, Antioch (resident in Damascus), Jerusalem, Moscow, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Georgia (this last titled Catholicos-Patriarch).  Each is the lead Bishop for Orthodox in the area around his city or country, and some also elsewhere because of 20th-century expansion in Orthodox evangelization and mass migration.  As such, a Patriarch’s (or other primate’s) exact responsibilities vary from place to place.  Besides administering his own diocese, chairing local meetings of synods and councils of Bishops and other churchmen and -women, and overseeing central Church administration and institutions, he often visits throughout his Local Church and other Local Orthodox Churches to maintain ties of fellowship / communion (Greek koinonia) in person, serves high-profile Liturgies, preaches, writes, advocates for public wellbeing and improvement and traditional, Orthodox-influenced culture(s), meets with governmental and non-Orthodox religious leaders, provides overall leadership in his Church, leads in the Church teaching and formation of young people and future churchpeople, and overall tries to help his people be saved….  In short, it’s the work of any Orthodox Bishop, ‘writ large’ if you will.  But normally in a far more collaborative spirit than many Westerners might expect considering Orthodoxy’s ‘oldness’ and ‘conservatism,’ “long beards, robes, and services,” headscarves (often), lack of “praise bands,” dearth of agitation, exhortations to piety and humility, ‘cloistered’ or semi-cloistered monasticism….

It’s a commonplace in the field of  Church History that a Bishop’s “job one” was to ensure the unity of his local flock, protecting it from the divisions of heresy and schism.  A Patriarch’s (or other primate’s), then, is to also ensure the unity of his Patriarchate or Province.  This is similar to the role of ruling bishops and primates in other Churches similarly structured, such as Anglicanism, Catholicism (Western and Eastern, papal and “independent”), the Oriental Churches (ie, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syriac, Armenian, Asian Indian, etc.), and the Assyrian Church.  In this way, it’s not unique to Orthodoxy.  Even the title of Patriarch is used by other “Eastern” Churches besides us.

And why the title Patriarch?  Really, Patriarch is ‘just’ a primate and Local Church granted more honor and seniority by the Church, for whatever reasons.  It’s not strictly theological or ‘necessary.’  All Orthodox Churches are equal.  Another irony is that Pope Benedict XVI of Rome the other year dropped the one of his many historic titles — Patriarch of the West — that o/Orthodox Tradition can theoretically deal with!

Also, a Patriarch (or Primate, or any Bishop ideally) is revered by Orthodox Tradition as a sacrament, symbol, sacred embodiment of his Church, hence their vestments and their hand-kissing by laity.  He is in a sense the father of his Church; episcopal consecration is part of the “Mystery” of Holy Orders, after all.  The ultimate ‘icon’ of a Church is its primate presiding over Divine Liturgy alongside his clergy, surrounded by the faithful.  After all, it’s not just about pushing pencils!

(*–BTW, an Orthodox Patriarchate is not in the first place what feminist theorists refer to as a patriarchal structure.  In Orthodox usage the word patriarch derives not from Greek words for father-ruler, but country-ruler [in broad and religious senses] … patria as fatherland or motherland, meaning simply a sizeable territory.)

The sociologist and novelist, not the boxer … though he’s always been a fighter too!  Over the weekend his coat got caught in a taxi door in the Chicago area and he was dragged a bit, suffering a skull fracture.  (I’m sure he’s wondered since then if coats should be made of such strong stuff!)  He’s critical-but-stable in a Lutheran hospital’s surgical ICU.

His fiction as well as nonfiction have helped me learn about my Irish and Catholic background(s) in ways my working-class status couldn’t otherwise afford — no bagpipes or jigging growing up, no trips to The Old Country….  If anyone stood a chance of keeping me in the Catholic Church, it would’ve been he.  As I was returning to it in ’98 after 7 years among the Quakers and Mennonites, I asked him in an email, “What if I don’t agree with everything the Pope says?”  He responded, “Who does?”

Intriguingly, in recent years the religious resurrection of formerly-Communist Eastern Europe caught his attention as a sociologist of religion, and formed the backdrop of at least two of his novels — The Bishop Goes to THE University, about the apparent locked-room murder of a Russian monk at the U. of Chicago (it’s always apparent, isn’t it?!); and the stellar Star Bright!: A Christmas Story, which latter you must buy and read — meditatively — before the Nativity According to the Flesh of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, especially if you’re American, Irish, and/or of Catholic background!  Fr. Greeley’s information about Orthodoxy isn’t perfect, but passable.  Star Bright! is not a murder mystery, but one of the blossoming romance between a Chicagoan Irish Catholic college Russian Studies major and an artist and art history major from Russia, a mystical young lady raised there without religion in the final years of Communist rule, who embraced Orthodoxy as a teen, ie, just a few years prior.  I imagine she’s a stand-in for her entire country / church, though sadly, an American Russian Studies major certainly isn’t, for our country, yet.  Atypically for Greeley, although the girl is “luminous,” the boy is not described as great-looking, which he pointed out to me when I chided him once for making most of his good characters good-looking and his evil characters ugly.  Also, this novel contains almost no sexual material — just one mild, and as always sincere, grope above the waistline, IIRC, as well as evocative allusions to an alleged tradition of “Christmas love,” around which the novel turns.  No violence, but some US Irish Catholic family holiday conflict; as one character complains, “It’s too bad Christ had to be born at Christmas!”  IMHO a true Western-style spiritual classic, though of a lay, not clerical / Religious, orientation … and an acceptable little dip into Russian / Orthodox faith too.  The pair even visit a traveling exhibit of Alaskan and Siberian Orthodox artifacts, complete with references to Saints Herman and Innocent of Alaska, serenaded by a recording of the St. Vladimir’s Seminary choir: I believe this is the coffee-table book based on the actual exhibition, put together for the 200th anniversary of the 1794 Valaam Monastery (Russia) mission to Native Alaska that formally brought Orthodoxy to the Americas to stay.

As for The Bishop Goes to THE University (a Blackie Ryan mystery), my most memorable line comes from Bishop Blackie’s boss, Sean Cardinal Cronin of Chicago, after attending the monk’s lengthy funeral liturgy (probably liturgies): “Three hours, Blackwood!”  His Eminence was not amused!

O Holy Father, heavenly Physician of our souls and bodies, Who hast sent Thine only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to heal all our ailments and deliver us from death, do Thou visit and heal Thy servant, Father Andrew, granting him release from pain and restoration to health and vigor, that he may give thanks unto Thee and bless Thy holy Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.  Amen.  (From the service of the Orthodox Mystery of Anointing.)

Says an Antiochian Orthodox bookstore owner in Wichita, Kansas,* in this 2002 Publishers Weekly roundup / preview of then-new Orthodox books entering the mainstream book market (in English in the United States).

(*–For the record, home of 5 Orthodox churches, visible at orthodoxyinamerica.org.)

Christ is Risen!  Indeed He is Risen!

Yes, on the Third Monday of Pascha yesterday morning – May 12 (NS)! – some snow stuck to the ground in higher elevations of southwestern Pennsylvania (link may break), the Commonwealth where I and alot of other Orthodox live!

This discussion goes back to my recent post occasioned by the (Western) Good Friday Blizzard in the U.S. Midwest,* pointing out that the (small-T) traditional Western association of Easter with Spring is actually more likely to be fulfilled by Orthodox Pascha – for the next few thousand years anyway, if the Lord doesn’t return in Glory first – because at this time it’s usually one, two, or five weeks later than Easter, and will gradually get later vis a vis the seasons, over time, until of course it reaches Northern Autumn, at which point it will start moving back behind the other way, so to speak, toward Northern Spring.  Anyway, that means it’s alot less likely to snow in the Northern Hemisphere, or be wintry-cold; not impossible, just less likely!

I’ve been prevented by circumstances from replying to A Simple Sinner’s challenge there until now, among them my own continued study of the Calendar situation within Orthodoxy, and between Orthodoxy and Catholicism / Protestantism.  What I’ve learned is that Old Calendar Christianity – ie, most of Christendom before 1582 – essentially knowingly sacrificed, and continues to sacrifice, a little bit of astrological** accuracy in favor of perfect Liturgical convenience.  (As one calendar expert opines [quoted here], “However accurate we might try to make them, calendars should be judged not by their scientific sophistication, but by how well they serve social needs.”  Or as Another putteth it, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.”)

As a result of the determination of the Orthodox Paschalion or scheduling of Easter during the first Christian millennium (pursuant to the decision of the First Ecumenical Synod, the Council of Nicea, in AD 325), Western and Byzantine Christian worship services fell into a 532-year cycle discussed briefly and relatively simply here with relatively little polemic.  NB: Father Alexander, with the staunchly Old-Calendar Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, misspoke at one point: the 19-year cycle is lunar, and the 28-year cycle is solar, not the other way around.  Vis a vis the Julian calendar of dates and leap years, the dates of the moon phases calculated for planning purposes – approximate to the observed phases – follow a sequence that repeats every 19 Julian years.  And as the same linked paragraph also notes, Julian dates recur on the same days of the week every 28 years.  28 times 19 equals 532, the two cycles resynchronizing together every 532 years.

It wasn’t just about Easter / Pascha.  For medieval Byzantine Christians, nearly every day of the year was – and for all Orthodox still is – describable in relation to Pascha, whether it’s a day of a week of the Triodion (pre-Lent), the Great Fast (Lent), Holy Week, the actual Pascha Season, or weeks after Pentecost for the rest of the year and early the following year until the Triodion comes around again.  Most people don’t make this connection – it took me a while – but literally every day is a Moveable Feast!  For medieval Western Christians, only the Season(s) of Advent / Christmas / Epiphany were taken out of the relationship to Easter, days of these weeks being defined specially.  (Byzantine Christians didn’t have such a liturgical Advent [just our Nativity Fast], nor an Epiphany / Theophany ‘season’ really.)  When I was going through Catholic schools and seminaries, even “Ordinary Time” was discussed Pentecostally in terms of “the life of the Spirit in the Church,” even if the name “Ordinary Time” seems like “generic/not exciting”!

Therefore, for Byzantine and High-Church Western Christians then and today still, any given day has two aspects.  Easterners characterize these as the Menaion and the Paschalion, ie, the Fixed and the Moveable – the commemoration of the numerical calendar date, and that of the relation to Pascha.  (This is why some of us consider it imprecise to call the Old Calendar as used in most of the Orthodox Church “the Julian Calendar.”  Caesar didn’t know about the Resurrection of Christ, because JC – the earlier one who only thought he was god – died too soon!  OC Orthodox’ Menaion is Julian, but the Paschalion is Hebrew.)  Westerners traditionally thought of them a little differently, the Liturgical Season (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost) or “Temporal Cycle,” and the saint’s feast of the numerical calendar date otherwise, the “Sanctoral Cycle.”

Why is all this important?  Because as I said, the sequence of services – not just Eucharistic Liturgy, but also the Hours and some other Church services – repeated every 532 years.  Each day’s services were also complicated by multiple commemorations on many days of the year, and because of the Menaion and Paschalion (to use the Eastern terms) seeming to jump with regard to each other yearly, a priest needed help putting together any given day’s services.  He didn’t invent them himself eventually, but had the accumulated Holy Tradition in this regard to guide him.  As Fr. Alexander said in the linked article, for Orthodox the key to this (big-T) Tradition is called the Typikon (or Typicon), a big book that describes all the possible combinations of feasts and fasts for the 532-year cycle.  ISTM the Church of Rome had something similar whose most common name seems to have been the Ordinarius, the basis of the Ordo, although as this (old) Catholic Encyclopedia article emphasizes, it varied a bit with the addition of local, regional, or national feasts, or those pertaining to a particular religous or monastic order, and their interaction with the universal (Latin) feasts; this is also true in Orthodoxy, without vitiating the reliance on the Typicon as a whole.  Examples of Orthodox versions of the annual extracts from the Ordinarius that were eventually printed by dioceses, provinces, nations, and orders of the Church of Rome (as the CE discusses) include these from the (Old Calendar) Diocese of Alaska of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), and the “2008 Tipic” currently available on the homepage of the OCA’s (New Calendar) Romanian diocese.  (I don’t know if all the OCA’s dioceses do their own Orders of Divine Services; the Romanian diocese’s commemorations might vary from those of the rest of the OCA due to their Romanian traditions, most of the rest of the OCA being of Russian or Carpatho-Russian heritage.  And Alaska is their only remaining OC diocese, so its Menaion would differ from most of the rest of that jurisdiction [though they also have a few dozen OC parishes in other dioceses].)

So what?  I believe Fr. Alexander exaggerates when he complains that parishes and jurisdictions on the Orthodox New Calendar “throw the Typicon in the trash.”  IIUC, they will only gradually, over the centuries, accumulate combinations of feast-days not currently covered by the Traditional Orthodox Typikon.  But most usage of the Typicon t/Traditionally didn’t consist of the ‘dartboard’ approach he and others often employ – impressively – to prove its usefulness, but instead just marching through it day by day, week by week.  The Typikon in a sense was the calendar, covering both Menaion and Paschalion.  The same for the Ordinarius in the West.  I can’t find discussion of the impact of the Gregorian Calendar reform on the Ordinarius and the Ordo, but since the Western Church went from a 532-year cycle to a nearly 6-million-year one, it has had to require increasing intervention by Rome to account for unaccounted-for combinations of universal (Latin) and other feasts, a significant departure from Tradition.  Or massive depletion of feasts from the calendar, as has happend in the last few generations, with the liturgical “reform’s” increased focus on the Seasons, and the ‘lay-off’ of certain well-known but ancient Saints now questioned, such as Christopher and Philomena, and the Great-Martyr George for God’s sake!  (Sorry, I almost never take God’s Name in vain; but here, is it?!  In any case, Orthodox often include prayers and especially hymns from more than one saint-of-the-day, as well as from the season, in Liturgy, similar to what the Tridentine Mass did.)  As Dr. Roman points out in the linked article, this approach too is highly not-Orthodox – and he’s an Eastern Catholic!  Or even a dramatic simplification of the calendar and approach to feasts: for instance, I have no idea what most of this even means, since I have no memory of the Latin Liturgy before Vatican II.  “Semi-double of the Second Class”?!!  Today Latin observances are in order of increasing importance: Commemorations (ie, de-emphasized Optional Memorials during Lent), Optional Memorials, Obligatory Memorials, Feasts, and Solemnities … period.  In fairness, I don’t know what most of the Orthodox Orders of Services I linked to above are talking about either, since I haven’t had a chance to study the finer points of Orthodox Liturgy yet.  But I’ve probably seen or heard it in church, and I know it’s all hugely valued by Orthodox Holy Tradition, so much that if you touch the Liturgy, there’s rioting in the streets of Greece, even deaths … or (successful) mass resistance to Communist-backed “renovationism” in the USSR in the ’20s.  (I never heard that in “History of the Soviet Union” in college!)  And again in fairness, as Fr. Alexander points out, in the Orthodox New Calendar aka Revised Julian, there’s no cycle, it’s completely open-ended, so that it will require updating at the beginning of just about every century by dioceses or jurisdictions or synods.

Long story short, nearly all the world’s Orthodox keep the Traditional Orthodox Paschalion,*** and the overwhelming majority of the world’s Orthodox keep the Traditional Orthodox Calendar aka Julian (though a minority in the Western world), among many, many other reasons, because this Menaion and Paschalion are, mathematically speaking, internally perfect.  They trade one day every 134 years vis a vis the sun and stars and climatic seasons, for the convenience of continuing to follow the Services sanctified by centuries of Orthodox Fathers and Mothers of the Church, Saints, and the All-Holy Spirit of God, without requiring any more novel Hierarchical intervention than necessary (eg, when new Saints are added to the calendar), or the gutting of the calendar or its feasts and Saints (most of the world’s Orthodox treat their Saint’s name-day more importantly than their “birthday according to the flesh”), or of the Liturgical Tradition itself.  And it’s not rare among Orthodox to express doubt that the Lord will delay His Return in Glory long enough to let us seriously worry about Pascha in Northern Autumn – though if He does, there’s always the Southern Hemisphere!  (I guess then they’ll trade kielbasa at the parish Pascha bash after late-night Liturgy, for “shrimps on the barbie“!  Or wait, they’re shellfish and not part of the Fast.  You get what I mean though….)

Think of it computerwise: The raw data are (1) the universal calendar, (2) the elements of the Liturgies (Eucharist, Hours, etc.), (3) a national or regional calendar, and (4) a local calendar.  The Typikon or Ordinarius is/was the database assembled from these raw data.  Holy Tradition is/was the software.  And the annual Ordo’s or other printouts are the output.  Michael Purcell (Orthodox) says his Menologion 3.0 software (both calendars) is ready for download and use on your computer, but generally speaking, the Typikon is in some ways similar to that, and in other ways different, as you could see sampled at the Alaskan and Romanian links above.  To really see it computerwise, a Melkite Catholic priest (Gregorian Calendar) has computerized (5.6 MB) an unofficial software version of his diocese’s typicon for the next 1,000 years(!), and although he says the Hours will be added in a software update expected at the end of next year, the list of options just for Eucharist is more than the Menologion provides, because the Menologion isn’t intended to provide those things.

(*–As well as part of a long-term ongoing attempt to get my head around Orthodox calendar stuff for the sake of explaining it here.)

(**–As they called it a long time ago.)

(***–Metropolitan KALLISTOS [Ware] in The Orthodox Church says Finland’s Orthodox are required by the government to follow the Gregorian Calendar, ie, not even the Revised Julian.  I don’t know why Constantinople’s Estonians do, representing one in eight Orthodox in that country.)

The main meaning of the Greek verb baptizo, from which the English word baptism is ultimately derived (as Mr. Portokalos advised us!), is to dip, as in water.

Christianity as such didn’t invent the practice of dipping converts in water.  The Old Testament Church sometimes baptized proselytes, and so did some other Near Eastern religions.  But dipping quickly became a hallmark of Christianity.  The Lord was baptized by the Holy Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist, John, and very early, Christians commemorated this on a yearly basis, along with the Lord’s other “manifestations,” on the Great Feast of the Theophany, January 6.  The Gospel According to St. John the Theologian 3:22, 4:1-2 indicates that the Lord Himself and/or His disciples baptized followers very early.  Water imagery is frequent in the Gospels.  And of course, the Lord commanded his Apostles to ‘make students [disciples] of all nations, dipping them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,’ which they did, as the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles attest.

However, I haven’t made a study of it, but I have never seen a depiction, East or West, of the Lord’s Baptism by John, in which He seemed completely immersed in the waters of the Jordan River by John.  (That might be hard to draw or paint.)  Usually what seems to be going on is that the Lord, or both He and John, are standing in the river, partially immersed, with John pouring water over the Lord’s head.  Today Orthodox Judaism requires total immersion for some mikvah bath-taking, including for conversion to the faith.  Something similar is reflected in Orthodox Christian theology, East and, originally, West, from very early on, including in the canonical Epistles.  The most profound o/Orthodox theology around Christian Baptism is actually uniting the convert to Christ’s Death, Burial, and Resurrection from the Dead, as the Holy Apostle Paul is well-known to point out (see Romans 6).  The early Fathers of the Church discuss how triple-immersion Baptism mimics burial in the ground and resurrection from the dead – done three times, once for each day the Lord spent in the tomb; or for His (1) Death, (2) Burial, and (3) Resurrection from the Dead; and of course for (1) the Father, (2) the Son, and (3) the Holy Spirit, as He commanded.  In fact some Christian sects baptized by single-immersion, and this was condemned by Ecumenical Councils as “baptism only into His Death,” as if not also into His Burial and Resurrection from the Dead.  Thus, even now, the unbaptized enter Orthodox Christianity by triple immersion.

Theologically, Orthodox Baptism unites you to the Lord’s Death, Burial, and Resurrection from the Dead – the Mystery of our Salvation.  In this way, you are united energetically – in His Energies, but not His imparticipable Essence – to Him, becoming a member of His Body, His Orthodox Church, just like His hands and feet, eyes and ears, mouth and nose, as St. Paul says repeatedly.  God’s All-Holy Spirit, of course, is “everywhere present, filling all things,” as Orthodox pray constantly in the prayer “O Heavenly King.”  But especially in Christ’s Body, whether during His three years on Earth, now in Heaven, or in His Body on Earth the Orthodox Church since Pentecost.  So it is as a member of Christ’s Body that you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you too after Baptism and the sealing with the Holy Spirit, Chrismation (“confirmation”), immediately after Baptism.  Thus is Adam and Eve’s sin, the Ancestral Sin, removed from you – through your “death,” “resurrection from the dead,” union with Christ Himself “who knew no sin,” and filling with His Divine Spirit.

Somehow much of this has been lost in Western Christian tradition, where baptism became associated only formalistically with water, washing, joining the church, and salvation, as exemplified by the old Catholic Encyclopedia article.  By which I mean that they may sometimes still say the words in the homily or in spiritual journals or theological essays, but as someone who studied for both Latin and Protestant ministries, I can say they lack the resonance that they have in an Orthodox Church that baptizes by immersion.  As the CE points out, non-immersion Baptism was (and still is, in Orthodoxy) always considered permissible in unusual circumstances – unavailability of sufficient water, illness or decrepitude, disability, maybe even a perceived need for secrecy in situations of persecution.  But according to this source (scroll to bottom), baptism by pouring became the usual method in the West just on the eve of the Protestant Reformation.  I am unable to find out why it did so even in the case of infants – the most common candidates for baptism – who should be pretty easy to dip!  But I have a theory: In what might be called ‘standing immersion,’ as with depictions of the Lord, water was poured over the candidate’s head – in o/Orthodox Christianity, perhaps evoking His Burial at least by completely covering the body with some water, even after the fashion of throwing dirt on the grave.  Now if the association of Baptism with Christ’s Burial and Resurrection from the Dead was essentially lost in the West, you were left with pouring water over the head without standing in water, a theology mostly of (merely) washing (ie, “washing away Original Sin”), and from there, the degradation of the rite and its associations in faith and practice, until you reach a point where a slightly-revived Immersion practice (post-Vatican II) is feared by some Latins as threatening the theology of the sacrament!  You even have the obsession of some Western schools of theology – Latin and Protestant, for and against – with the question of ‘how little is required to have a “valid baptism”?’, leading to exhaustive, contrived discussions of sprinkling, smudging, use of sand, baptism by a nonbeliever, even baptizing in utero, and all the other s/Scholastic excesses that never had any significant place in actual Western Christian life.  I don’t have specific historical information regarding how the association with Christ’s Burial and Resurrection from the Dead were essentially lost, except to cite the general erosion of o/Orthodox t/Theology in the West, especially after the final real loss of Communion by the West with the rest of the Church dated at AD 1054.  (Celt that I am, I’m developing a renewed appreciation for just how “dark” the “Dark Ages,” a Western phenomenon,* really became – tragically.  Why would God allow that?)

Under Western influence, some Orthodox dioceses (and apparently most Byzantine-Rite Eastern Catholics) temporarily adopted Baptism by Pouring as their main method in the 16-1800s, but I believe most if not all Orthodox now normally use some form of Immersion again.  There is some discussion about how to receive converts to Orthodoxy who have been previously baptized by various methods in Heterodox Christianity, and it has varied somewhat historically from time to time, from place to place, and from Heterodox church to Heterodox church, but I believe the most common method, at least in the United States now, is by Chrismation – as I was received into the Greek Archdiocese of America in 2002 – not seeing an absolute need for a fresh Orthodox Baptism given the situation here.  (It’s actually more complex than that, and I don’t have a firm grip on it myself, but this is the decision of our Bishops and Synods, whose responsibility it is.  Greek Orthodox Metropolitan ISAIAH of Denver, who I am under the impression is quite the theologian, discusses this pastorally in a couple letters to his clergy in 2000 here and here.  The Archdiocese also advises me that it’s technically on a case-by-case basis.)

(*–Remember that only in the West did the true Empire of the Romans fall in the middle of the first Christian millennium.  It lived on in the East for another 1,000 years, with civilization, urbanity, literacy, science, etc.  Constantinople was the world’s largest city outside China!)

Italy’s former Orthodoxy is attested by the ancient icons and Greek icon-style murals and mosaics to be found in many old Latin churches there to this day.  Rome itself has at least one icon said to have been painted by St. Luke the Evangelist (like a few in Orthodox hands, or rather, graced to Orthodox churches and/or persons), called the Hodegetria style meaning the Mother of God holds and points to the Child Jesus, in the famous St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore in Italian*) basilica, to which ancient miracles are attributed like many icons in Orthodoxy.  Its traditional account is here, but none of the images on that webpage are it.  This page of a scandalized Protestant seems to bear a copy of the icon, as well as a couple links to the University of Dayton (a Catholic school despite the name!).  The icon is nicknamed in Latin Salus Populi Romani, literally “Health of the Roman People” – that’s people in the singular, aka nation or populace – although often rendered “Salvation of the Roman People,” even more scandalously!  Don’t tell him that the icon itself may be what is called that, not just Mary!

In his diocesan newspaper column this week, Philadelphia Catholic Cardinal Justin Rigali notes that after Rome was spared heavy World War 2 damage, this icon was brought out and processed around the streets in thanksgiving.  (Rigali served 24 years in the Vatican curia in Rome. NB: He’s Italian [and Irish] American, not Italian-born.)

As noted on the linked pages, she and it are also called “Our Lady of the Snows,” for the miracle – a 4th century August snowfall – that inspired the construction of the original church on St. Mary Major’s site.

Despite the quote from a very old and prejudiced (iconoclastic) Protestant source, I’m pretty sure most Latin Rite Catholics don’t think of Mary, angels, saints, statues, or icons the same way they think of God, and certainly Orthodox don’t, even if sometimes flowery, devout, theologically imprecise, nonpedantic language is used.

As for iconography itself, Orthodox traditionally have preferred painted icons to statues because statues are incapable of representing the person or scene ‘in Glory,’ that is, radiating God’s Uncreated Energies or Divine Light, like icons do in rays (which is what haloes are, and why they properly surround the head or body, not float above it like the mystical bowl of oatmeal in that old TV commercial!).  If you tried to have a three-dimensional statue with rays, they’d obscure the image itself.

I’m not aware that iconostases – the icon screens that separate the altar area from the rest of an Orthodox church – were ever used in most of Western Europe, though older Episcopal churches at least (speaking of here in the U.S.) preserve the traditional “rood screen” enclosing the altar, from which was sometimes hung the cross (the “rood”) and possibly one or two other things.

Finally, traditional Orthodox icons are heavy in gold coloring, covering not just haloes but also the space surrounding the holy persons depicted.  Some Slavic traditions have incorporated Western influences different from this, including some icons indistinguishable from Western “naturalistic” paintings of holy persons and scenes, with little of the traditional Eastern indication of Uncreated Light.  But the late Fr. Seraphim Rose, a California convert revered by some Orthodox but who is not uncontroversial, counseled against what might be called neo-iconoclasm:

“There is a case (one of many) in which a church had old, original Russian icons—some good and some in rather poor taste, painted in a relatively new {ie, Western} style—and a zealous person took them all out and put in new, paper icon prints in perfect Byzantine style. And what was the result? The people there lost contact with tradition, with the people who gave them Orthodoxy. They removed the original icons which believers had prayed before for centuries.”

At the same time, Greek / Byzantine-style iconography is starting to be seen more among Latins and even Protestants, in what some Orthodox consider a mixed blessing – though I can’t remember why, and can’t find it again on the WWW.

(*–“Major” refers to the church; it’s dedicated to the Theotokos, not to some saint named Mary Major.)

OK, OK, now that we’ve all had a laugh over a Vatican bureaucrat-archbishop’s politically-correct-sounding interview, first things first: what he was really about (Latin perspective).  For further background, from other sources on the WWW, I gather that what he was doing in the first place was providing advice to priest-confessors / spiritual directors in the Latin tradition, to broaden the traditional examination of conscience to cover things Sister Mary Rose may not have covered when His Excellency was in parochial school several generations ago.  Secondarily, to his faithful as they go to confession themselves – as he wishes they’d do more of (as should we all).

(More sober treatments are, for now at least, available from the Sydney Morning Herald and Reuters.)

The media didn’t have quite as much ‘fun’ when the Latins’ new Catechism of the Catholic Church did something similar over a decade ago, adding speeding and other such “modern” *  things to moral considerations.  As I recall they treated it as just a small, quirky highlight of a very long and detailed book about everything a Latin (or even an Eastern Catholic – with more Eastern Christian ‘flavor’ peppered-into it than we’d ever seen before) needs to believe in order to be saved (as they believe).

Someone with 6 years of graduate Western religious studies 😉 might like to say that this suggestion from Rome is indeed somewhat new, not altogether out of line with recent developments in Western moral theology regarding what it calls social sins or structural evil.  British United Reformed hymnwriter Dr. Brian Wren even penned one that conveys some of the idea:

1. Not only acts of evil will,
but bland routine and good intent,
can hurt and harass, starve and kill
the outcast and the innocent.
  In such a world, and in God’s name,
  we seek a gospel to proclaim.

2. Our normal, ordinary ways
of doing business, getting more,
entrap the poorest in a maze
of hunger, debt, disease and war.
  In Christ we would make good our claim,
  and find a gospel to proclaim.

(Speaking of which[!], you can look at the whole text at his copyright administrators Hope Publishing Company, but when they say you can agree to download one copy free and easy for personal use, they don’t mean you can save the HTML on your hard drive – it’ll hose your browser like it just did mine!  [All open tabs and windows!  Thank goodness WordPress auto-saves drafts.]  But they don’t bar highlighting and copying the text … for now.  BTW, I’m considering this truncated quotation an acceptable use under usual copyright laws; I even recommend his stuff for purchase by non-Orthodox choirs and congregations, so consider this a review.)

Not to mention someone with a background as an oppressed Irish Catholic [849 years, Your Majesty!], a Native American, a political and investigative reporter, a local labor union leader, and in Liberation Theology.

But I would be wrong to think this sort of thing is new, merely counter to stereotype, where we focus on personal failings in areas like sex, stealing, lying, cheating, killing, hurting, betraying – the stuff of the party game Scruples.  Important stuff, stuff that’s often hard not to do, a challenge!  But written Examinations of Conscience or Preparations for Confession have been ‘expanding upon’ or ‘contextualizing’ Commandments, Vices, and other violations for centuries.  ‘Ya haven’t killed anyone lately, but have you killed their reputation?’ etc.  And before that, you still had priests questioning penitents, especially if they seemed reluctant to come clean.

As pointed out, some of the specific things mentioned this week were technologically impossible not long ago, but variations on older temptations.  Other things, like contributing to social injustice, may have felt – rightly or wrongly – largely out of the reach of most laity in past eras, but most Christian Churches have frequently counseled rulers about this.  Today, with voting and rapid transit, not to mention the Internet(!), the average lay Christian in much of the world may sin against many times more people than in former times.

As the context of Confession points out, and as Orthodoxy emphasizes even more, it’s not just about resisting temptation, but repenting of sinfulness, known and unknown, voluntary and involuntary (scroll down to last paragraph).  The perfect Latin is considered possible, as I recently implied, if highly doubtful; and some Protestant groups at least historically believed in some form of perfectibility in life.  But in Orthodoxy we have the frequently-told tales of the saintliest of monastics on their deathbeds worrying sincerely – though not unhealthily – that they haven’t even begun to repent, and the monastic Father who, when asked what they do all day, replied, “We fall down and get up, fall down and get up, fall down and get up.”  “Orthodox aren’t perfect, just repentant.”  Seeming to successfully resist temptation can tempt to and induce pride, the deadliest sin of all; better to remember that we can never repent enough to divinize ourselves – repenting is merely the best preparation for God to do it.  And what happens then?  An even greater sense of our own sinfulness, of our responsibility for the sins of all humanity, even praying for the devil (they say) and seeking to refrain from killing bugs.  “New sins”?  We’ll probably never run out of sins!  But increased sensitizedness?  Even if it’s driven by news media like some of the archbishop’s seem to be – and as journalists say, “The news is usually bad” – is that a bad thing?  Is God unconcerned?  Brian Wren says no.

But consult your priest or spiritual parent.

(*–Who was the guy in the Old Testament who could be identified by watchmen while still several miles away from a fortress “because he drives like a maniac”?!!  I swear I read that exact phrase in a supposedly reputable translation a decade or two ago!)

A knowledgeable, intelligent working-class layperson I know in the Latin Church, even a product of parochial schools, even arguably in the Latin Church’s most conservative jurisdiction, who hasn’t been to Mass much since it was translated into English, was shocked to learn that her Church teaches that God’s Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son, the word filioque the Latins added to the Creed starting in the 7th century.  Her faith was o/Orthodox on this question, the Spirit proceeding only from the Father, as the unamended Creed and the Gospel According to St. John 15:26 say!  How many Latins have been like her over the last 13 centuries?  How much was it really talked about among lay Latins when it was all in Latin?!  How many devout, knowledgeable Latins were surprised to hear what they heard at those first vernacular Masses in the ’60s?!!  (And I don’t mean guitars!)  Did the Orthodox Church lose a chance there???

(Opinion Alert: Just a few ruminations.) 

Was it an accident that Rome and Constantinople’s break in communion of 1054 became permanent?  Like I’ve said, there were previous ones.  Doctrinal divergence?  Even this hadn’t prevented patching-up differences previously.  And between 1054 and 1453 there were several attempts to do so again.  The last one actually resulted in a brief reunion: the final service in Hagia Sophia as Constantinople was falling to the Turks – without the promised help from the West – included Latins and Orthodox.  The Union of Florence was repudiated by the Russians, Greek monastics and laity, and finally the Greek episcopate.

According to their official position historically, Rome continued seeking to ‘make real’ that Union by signing local unions with Orthodox communities under various conditions, not all of them voluntary or truthful.  (These are the Eastern Catholic Churches, aka Uniates or Uniats.)  At the same time ISTM the sense of doctrinal divergence pointed to as early as the 1200s by Orthodox canonist and Patriarch of Antioch Theodore Balsamon, and at the time of the Council of Florence itself by the Metropolitan of Ephesus, St. Mark Eugenicos, grew on other Orthodox as time wore on.  Some say that as long as the Latin Church hasn’t been condemned officially by a council of the whole Orthodox Church, that doesn’t matter … but ISTM that hasn’t been the sense of most Orthodox Christians.  To Orthodox, some things are established by tradition, which we strive to make the Life of the Spirit of God in the Body of Christ, the whole Orthodox Church, even in the absence of a universally-denominated “ecumenical synod.”  There certainly weren’t any “ecumenical councils” before Nicea!

So that may be a human evaluation of how we got where we got.

The blogger from the previous post, Mr. Brooks Lampe in the Washington, DC, area, here tackles some heavy stuff, without it coming across too heavy! He’s reporting and reflecting mostly on a book by Philip Sherrard, whose writing can be extremely dense – well-planned, well-packed, making for downright oppressive reading, like much philosophy can be – but finally rewarding to the effort. It’s the sequel to Lampe’s article linked to in the previous post.

A few reflections of my own:

  • Fr. Gregory Matthewes-Green referenced there is the husband of Frederica Matthewes-Green, speaker, critic, and columnist about Orthodox and other topics, in person, in print, and on radio. They are the pastor and khouria (Arabic for priest’s wife [priest is khoury, like the surname], apparently pronounced like Korea) of Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland, near Baltimore.
  • Lampe blew me away by saying the following, even before getting to Sherrard! (emphasis added): To a large extent, in fact, I credit Western Christianity for leading me to the East…. [T]he West has always been introspective in trying to identify and return to the true faith where it perceives cracks in the truth. Anglicanism and the C.E.C. in particular, I believe, live out the agonia of a faith that has been partially damaged or compromised. For Western Christians, present-day Christianity in part means salvaging and rebuilding the Church. This is most obvious in terms of living in a world where the Church has been “broken” into multiple parts, but it is also evident in the liturgy and sacraments, where there is a sense that the inherited forms and meanings of the modern West are lesser versions of a former glory. In the minds of most high-church Westerners, that former glory can never be restored; as such, the best thing to do is stay the course and counteract the Church’s entropic tendencies. Western Christianity’s “agony,” then, plays a large role in protecting us against complacency (although skeptics and agnostics can become complacent) and in stimulating a desire for a seemingly unreachable ideal. In studying the particular theological differences between Rome and Orthodoxy, I am beginning to see that this agony is not the necessary dead end.
    • ISTM Rome itself might disagree with such a characterization, but one might see it in Rome’s, just like Protestantism’s, constant searching for new ways to express what it has of the tradition, or ways to say what it has better; hence all the ‘schools of theology’ throughout its history and their struggles and conflicts and politics (perhaps unfairly represented, for readers/viewers of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, by the great philosophical/theological question of the debate, “Did Christ own the clothes He wore?”).
  • Lampe points to the insight that even when we use the same words, Orthodox and Latins are often not saying the same thing. This is a theme of Fr. John Romanides as well.
  • Learning that the papacy of Rome – to paraphrase somebody in the musical 1776 (“John Adams”?) I think? – did not ‘spring full-grown from the head of Christ,’ but historically evolved from a local bishopric to doubt-worthy and damaging claims of universal jurisdiction, infallibility, and necessity for salvation, was key to my leaving it the first time in favor of the Quakers in 1991, returning to it ‘on my own terms’ in ’98, and thus in the background of my leaving it again for Orthodoxy in ’02.
  • Where Lampe/Sherrard(?) uses the word parish, IIUC I believe we Orthodox have to usually understand bishopric or diocese (of whatever title). Some early Councils use parish not in the modern sense of a subdivision or outpost of a diocese, but the whole, presided over by its Ruling Hierarch. In truth, the Whole Orthodox Church and Christ’s Body is indeed theologically present in every Eucharistic assembly, with or without the in-person presence of its Ruling Hierarch, but at least with his authorization… though this is true par excellence under his actual presidency: the Bishop, his priests, deacons, and other clergy, in the midst of the laity. This is why for us a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy is such a big deal.
  • This article points to the theological importance of the Local Church better than I’ve ever seen before, something with which the Latin Church wrestled after its Second Vatican Council, until ‘localizers’ were basically ‘pinned’ (to extend the wrestling metaphor!) by the “tag team” of John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger, his doctrinal chief, in favor of the papacy again, at least as far as official discussion is concerned. This is why the dribs and drabs that came out in connection with the “dropping of the title Patriarch of the West,” from Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict XVI – and others last March, were so unexpected, uncertain, unsatisfying… and untrusted! This presentation of Orthodoxy, and many others, starts with the Local Church; Latins instinctively look first to a “Universal Church” of which their pope is the merely-human head, and local dioceses mere outposts with an uncertain practical-theological significance, amid his universal jurisdiction even theoretically over every individual believer, even around that believer’s local bishop.
    • (NB: On the subject of Local Catholic Churches – or not! – I believe the concern expressed over the 2002 establishment of 4 ‘normal’ Latin dioceses in the Russian Federation, with one of them, in Moscow, as their ‘chief,’ has proved unnecessary. The Latin ecclesiastical province of “the Mother of God of Moscow” seems, like all other Latin ecclesiastical provinces in recent centuries, virtually toothless, and not an “innovation” such as an Orthodox autonomous metropolia. Each diocese’s relationship with Rome remains full and direct. The four bishops do form the Russian Federation Catholic Bishops’ Conference, which is for now as relatively powerless as all other Latin national bishops’ conferences. The four dioceses’ former post-Soviet existence as “apostolic administrations” is normally considered by Latins an interim structure, on the way to being made a diocese. [They are called “apostolic” because of their status as sort-of appendages of Rome, sometimes called by Latins “the Apostolic See.”] It’s true that few Latin bishops are titled “Metropolitan” as apparently their Archbishop of Moscow has been sometimes referred to as, but his formal title is normally just Archbishop; he is described as ametropolitan archbishop” to distinguish him from the relatively few Latin archbishops who are not the mostly-titular heads of these mostly-toothless “provinces.” I also note that Latins in the disputed Sakhlin Islands [between Russia and Japan] remain outside the “province” of Russia, within an undeveloped structure called an “apostolic prefecture,” though their bishop in Irkutsk, Siberia, is pulling double duty as prefect of Sakhalin. And the Latin bishop of Novosibirsk was named to serve also the handful of parishes throughout the country of Russian and Ukrainian Byzantine Catholics, but neither has received its own bishop otherwise either, and there are indications the Vatican has committed itself not to make a move that would be so provocative to the Orthodox. [This linked article is very partisan, but in many places throughout the world Eastern Catholics of one or more spiritual traditions remain under Latin bishops’ jurisdiction… and in some places Latins are under Eastern Catholic bishops!])
    • (emphasis added) …Sherrard articulates the Orthodox belief that “unity” or “wholeness” of the Church is not found in the sum of all the parishes together, but in each local parish itself. Each eucharistic center is the Church because even though the body of Christ is distributed in many parts, each part is whole and complete in itself:* “There cannot be one local church which is more catholic or more united than another, because one manifestation of the Eucharist cannot be more, or less the manifestation of the body of Christ than another…. Christ is equally present whenever his body is manifest {eucharistically}, so the principle of catholicity and unity is equally present. The local church which manifests the body of Christ cannot be subsumed into any larger organization or collectivity which makes it more catholic and more in unity, for the simple reason that the principle of total catholicity and total unity is already intrinsic to it.”
    • (*–ie, Just like the Communion bread itself!)
  • Not having read Metropolitan JOHN (Zizioulas’) well-known work on “eucharistic ecclesiology” – just some critiques of it – I can’t say if Sherrard is saying the same thing, or something different.
  • A key insight of Sherrard’s is something I have felt instinctively for a few years now (emphasis and brackets added): Eventually, Sherrard states explicitly that the Papacy is a misguided idea because {ironically!!} it destroys the eucharistic unity of the Church. If [Rome’s] Petrine doctrine is correct then the Church is not unified through the Eucharistic celebration, but in that central organ or instrument of government that is the Pope. The responsibility of guarding the faith lies ultimately with the pope and not with the laity and clergy, not with the body as a whole. In other words, the apostolicity of the Church is reduced from the whole body to its head. The local parishes cease to be the full expression of the Church because they in themselves lack that quality of functioning as an apostolic body.
    • In effect, Rome’s theology of primacy is exaggerated or overblown – “a one-man ecumenical council, even a one-man Church,” I have called it elsewhere – a danger to the reality and faith of the rest of its Patriarchate and anyone else “in communion with” it. IIUC, even Eastern Catholic (aka “Uniate”) patriarchates – Maronite, Melkite, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, and Chaldean – have to have the Pope of Rome “extend communion to” their newly-elected patriarchs, apparently functionally equivalent to the “autonomous” status of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople’s Church of Finland, its Church of Estonia, I believe its Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, and possibly some others of its jurisdictions. A requirement like this is apparently all that prevents communion between Rome and the Assyrian Church of the East (aka “Nestorian”), and also organic reunion between the Assyrians and the Chaldean Catholics, now that Rome and the Assyrians have concluded they agree theologically after 1,600 years apart. In addition, I get the impression from their own printed sources that at least some Eastern Catholic patriarchs function almost like ‘little popes’ over their own jurisdictions, sounding much less collegial, conciliar, or synodal than even the most centralized Local Orthodox Churches. Does this come from association with Rome? I don’t know enough of their history to say.
  • This article also contains an excellent description of Orthodox Church conciliarity like I’ve never seen it before (emphasis and brackets added): The conciliar structure of the East, on the other hand, reflects the body functioning organically, in agreement and unity with itself and without reducing any local parish to being a piece of the whole: “What is intended through a council is that the identity {ie, identicalness} of the faith manifest in each local church, and vested therefore in each bishop, should be affirmed and confirmed through the mutual witness of all the bishops. It is the fact that its pronouncements affirm and confirm the unity and catholicity of the truth established a priori {ie, from the beginning!} in the Church–and through the act itself of the Church’s foundation–that makes a council an authoritative organ of the Church…. It is the whole body of the Church that is the criterion of orthodoxy. It is the Church which determines the councils, not the councils that determine the Church.”
  • Orthodox are sometimes chided for ‘theologizing everything,’ especially for perceiving the Filioque even in Latin Church structure and discipline. But like I’ve said, Orthodox are very theological! That’s why we’re “o/Orthodox”!
  • In fairness to the Latins, Protestants often see more than Latins do in Latins’ “meritorious acts,” because of Luther’s errors. Technically in Latin salvation, positive virtue is optional; only avoidance of “mortal sin,” or sacramental absolution of it, is necessary. When I entered the high school seminary of a Latin religious order whose main task is youth work, I learned – and experienced – one of their key principles: If you keep adolescents too busy – not necessarily doing ‘good,’ perhaps just ‘morally neutral’ – they’ll have less time to sin! An idle mind, or body, is the devil’s workshop, I guess. But when I encountered what some call the “positive ethics” of the Quakers much later – not just or primarily focused on avoiding evildoing, but promoting good-doing, with their self-improvement, pacifism, social justice work, “mysticism,” “Divine leadings,” etc. – was when I felt liberated from Latin “negative ethics” for the first time… and also had less time to sin… but felt better about it!!! (From an Orthodox perspective I see more clearly the problems with both systems now. Quakerism risks self-delusion, eg, [1] the idea that I’m frequently, consciously, authoritatively experiencing Divine input into my thoughts, perceptions, words, or deeds, without more serious work on my passions, or o/Orthodox belief or membership in Christ’s Body the Orthodox Church, and [2] the idea that I’m progressing, even in humility[!], toward “the state Adam was in before he fell… even the state of Christ that never fell” [early Quaker, George Fox], ie, actual [not forensic] sinlessness and perfection even during life.)

(Polished and expanded a little on 18 January 2008.)

How can Orthodoxy possibly dovetail with liberal Roman Catholicism?

  • Collegiality and conciliarity; no Papal Infallibility. While the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has some very supportive supporters, he’s really not supposed to be a worldwide ecclesiastical autocrat, merely “first among equals” among the bishops of the Orthodox Church, permanent chairman if you will. The Primates of Orthodoxy’s regional and national Synods wield alot of influence therein – some of it comes from being effectively CEOs of denominations – but they can still be challenged, even driven from power ‘from below,’ as recently happened with the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and a few years ago with a Greek Archbishop of America. And as far as “faith and morals” go, we place our trust in Holy Tradition, not the decrees of individual Patriarchs.
  • Spirituality. See my early posts about God’s Uncreated Divine Energies, Light, etc.
  • Contraception. You’re supposed to talk it over with your priest, but it’s not the automatic sentence of mortal sin and eternal damnation like it is in the RCC … though some disagree, and are free to.
  • A sense of Church History. We’re not afraid to find out that our Patriarchs’ posts evolved, or that monks and laity overruled some Church Councils. Actually Church history is often liberating!
  • Deaconesses. See here.
  • Collaborative ministry. From the parish to the ecumenical council, priests and bishops are within their churches, not above them. Laity and lower clergy, even lay theologians, have always had a key role in the life of the Church. In some jurisdictions they even help select bishops, primates,* and patriarchs (as seen in 2007 in Romania), did anciently, sometimes since then, and may do so more again soon, for instance in the Moscow Patriarchate, whose 1917-1918 council authorized the practice as represented now in The Orthodox Church in America (OCA). (*–The Archbishop of Cyprus’ election has a very “American” feel, with campaigning, the equivalent of primaries, the election of an Electoral College, controversy, secular media coverage….)
  • Liturgy. It may be long, but it’s great, beautiful, magnificent, etc. etc.!
  • ‘Physical’ worship. All five senses adore the Lord in Orthodox worship; the whole body is involved, even more than in the Mass.
  • Real theology. Like I’ve said before, theology has really fallen apart in the West; some trace it all the way back to Augustine of Hippo. I’ve had 9 years of parochial school, 5 years of minor seminary and novitiate, 4 years with a minor in Theology, 6 years of grad school in Western theology … and still, every time I read Orthodox Theology, it’s a revelation!
  • Art and architecture. There’s nothing like Orthodox icons and churches.
  • Music. Good Byzantine or Russian chant just might cure you of the need for guitars!
  • Divorce and remarriage; a pastoral sense, non-legalism. We don’t bother with annulment, but your bishop can grant an ecclesiastical divorce, clearing the way for up to 2 more marriages. Despite (or Because of?!) being “orthodox,” we have a reputation for leniency, compassion in pastoral practice. It’s called economy, in Greek oikonomia, the opposite of acriveia or strictness, and called into play when an exception may be necessary rather than fear losing a soul’s salvation.
  • Patristics, incl. patristic social justice. The Fathers and Mothers of the Church are the source of the best Orthodox theology (though even “100 pct. of the Fathers are 85 pct. right!”). And how’s this for social justice?: “The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the man who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the man who has no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help but fail to help” (St. Basil the Great).

A Fundamentalist who converted to the Latin Church wrote a book entitled Rome Sweet Home. I might call mine New Rome, Sweet Home: A Liberal Catholic Discovers Orthodoxy! (New Rome was the official name of Constantinople or Byzantium.)

Yesterday was the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Apostles. The Gospel reading for Divine Liturgy was Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi, Matthew 16:13-19 (here, from the NAB).

13
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
14
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16
Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
18
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
19
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

IMHO, it’s clear from the text that Peter indeed is the Rock on which the Lord says He will build His Church, in the context of Peter’s o/Orthodox confession of faith, a faithfulness revealed to him in his experience of the Father, as happens to anyone who experiences Glorification in the Trinity’s Uncreated Energies. It is Christ’s Orthodox Church on which the gates of Hades will not finally close-in — not one local Church in particular, but the Whole Church in general, again, in the context of witness to o/Orthodox f/Faith. (In fact, if we consider that the Church is the Body of Christ, then on Great Saturday the gates of Hades failed to prevail against it/Him; He arose on Pascha/Easter morning.) The Greek makes it clear that it is to Peter individually that the Lord says He will give the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever Peter binds or looses on earth will be so in Heaven — a responsibility extended shortly after to all the Twelve at Matthew 18:18.

Orthodoxy affirms that Peter held a special place among the early Christians, though not over them like an absolute lord (Matthew 20:26-28). (In Acts 15:13-21, James, the first bishop of Jerusalem, ‘clerked‘ the Council of Jerusalem, while Peter testified.) Historically St. Peter has been associated with the foundations of the Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome, Italy. To none of these ‘successors’ does the Lord say Peter will ‘hand-off’ the keys. But as if to illustrate a lasting role potential, during many of the theological controversies that convulsed the Universal Church in the first millenium, in spite of its own beginning theological drifting, Rome’s local Church did indeed provide a sufficient anchor of o/Orthodoxy within the Church Universal, like Peter did at Jerusalem. And remember that the Gospels, Acts, and Paul do not fail to depict a very imperfect Peter, one with whom all of us can identify, however low or high.

But if Rome should ever fall from Orthodoxy, ie, from the faith- and Truth-giving (John 16:13) experience of Glorification and ministry of service-leadership, Petrine ministry as described above will remain with the Orthodox Church, the other Petrine Sees, and the other Apostolic Sees; from AD 1100-1500, Constantinople, and from 1500-1900, effectively Moscow. All Orthodox Churches are equal, and the Council of Jerusalem remains the Biblical model for Orthodox decisionmaking in the Body of Christ. And a council can prevail upon any bishop, even a Patriarch, even the “First Among Equals.”

I’m trying to keep the light on Orthodoxy alone, but it has to be said that Rome has taught increasingly that authoritative revelation is given only to one of its adherents, the Pope of Rome, forgetting that Pentecost and Glorification — Orthodoxy just celebrated Pentecost and All Saints Sundays — are offered to the Whole Orthodox Church, not only to one person. Conciliarity may be messier, but it’s where the Holy Spirit is presumed to act — nay, experienced acting, historically — in the Whole Church, not just certain leaders. The things that Rome forgets continue to be taught by Orthodoxy.

Lord have mercy on us!

(In the event of reunification, Orthodoxy will require Rome to re-embrace o/Orthodox theology and conciliarity. Yes, sadly, we think we’re farther apart than Rome does!)