Skip to comments.SCHISM OF MIND AND HEART
Posted on 03/27/2004 1:45:39 PM PST by MarMema
The problem that brings us together is the genesis of the perception, on the part of the secular and religious non-Orthodox Western world, that Orthodoxy is something different, alien and possibly sinister. This problem is clearly seen in the case of Serbia, which for the past 500 years has passed through the severest possible trials of injustice. These trials ranged from the catastrophic destruction of the land, its people and its heritage during the Ottoman captivity, to the attempts by the Roman Catholic empires (notably the Hapsburgs) to destroy the Serbian Orthodox Church. In the past six decades alone they ranged from the genocide during World War II, when 700,000 Orthodox Christian Serbs were killed by Croatian and Moslem fascists, to the severe Communist repression and persecution under Tito.
On this form Serbia would seem to be a prime candidate for Western societys holiest pantheon: politically correct victimhood. Why, then, in an age when the principle of social justice is considered paramount and Western sensitivity to the plight of the victims of injustice is acute, the exact opposite is the case? For, as we all know, so vilified are the Serbs in the contemporary Western media and by the political establishment, that even their Orthodox faith is accused of supporting atrocities. What is going on here? Why is it so easy for Serbia, a land of innumerable saints, martyrs and confessors, to be held up without question or dispute as the sole or primary cause of evil and injustice in the region?
We are dealing with a prejudice that is not easy to pin down. Is it the hostility toward Orthodoxy displayed by the knowledge class in the modern Western world? Is it the benign or not so benign neglect of Orthodox culture and nations by Western political and cultural elites? Is it the facile treatment of Orthodoxy by academia and pluralistic theologians according to their own standards and values - standards and values that bear no relation to the essence of Orthodoxy? Is it the opacity of Orthodoxy to Western Christianity, and the corresponding confused response of Roman Catholics or Protestants, partly approving and partly disapproving, according to their own theological principles?
Is it even perhaps the mistaken understanding of many Orthodox themselves, whether lay people or clergy, of the true nature and purpose of Orthodoxy? Is it an intellectual, a cultural, a political, or a social problem, or a religious problem? Are mistaken notions about Orthodoxy, or hostile reactions to Orthodoxy to be attributed to its confusedly perceived difference from the West - or is the antipathy toward Orthodoxy due to clearly perceived difference? It is feasibly correct to say that all of these attitudes are involved at one level or another, but this does not really go to the heart of the matter. For the heart of the matter, as I see it, is a matter of the heart. More precisely, a matter of a schism in the soul of modern man which has separated the mind from the heart.
The key to the problem of Orthodoxy and Orthodox cultures like Serbia, Greece or Russia being heard, understood and respected in the modern world lies above all in the fact of schism. But this schism is not primarily that of church organizations, such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church, or of cultural, political and historical entities, such as the Greek East and the Latin West. The primary schism, however, the schism as it exists today in its most acute form, is a schism of the mind from the heart and the heart from the mind.
When magnified across time and history, and multiplied in generations and cultures, this schism becomes a vast shaper of souls. It is capable of creating mutual incomprehensibility and fear and hostility. The modern world, called Western because its genesis lay in the emancipation of the West from traditional religious restraints through the rationalism, humanism and secularism of the Enlightenment, is now global in scope and ubiquitous in effect. Its primary creation is a culture whose values are dominated by a rationalist-humanist-secularist world-view that alienates mind from heart, and gives priority to mind over heart. The Orthodox world, the eastern West, is not shaped by the values and patterns of modernity, much less post-modernity, but rather by traditional cultures that are far more heart-oriented and whole-feelinged.
This tradition is anything but non-rational, yet it is not readily responsive to the deracinated rationalistic humanism of the West. In contrast to individuals and cultures shaped by the forces of modernity, Orthodox cultures and nations tend to give priority to heart over mind - although the goal of the Orthodox Christian tradition is to heal the human schism of heart from mind. The mentality and imagination of Orthodox cultures and peoples has not been shaped by modernity but by tradition. In this lies the human dimension of the schism between East and West.
James Jatras suggests that the odd consistency of the reaction of the West to Orthodoxy and Orthodox cultures is a kind of general prejudice based on ignorance and fear, an unreasoning phobia that goes beyond mere anti-Serbian, anti-Russian, anti-Greek sentiment: pravoslavophobia, he calls it, putting the emphasis squarely on the distinctive difference created by the incarnation of the Orthodox faith in human cultures. I will attempt to analyze the theological roots of that difference, which may shed some light on the true nature of the phobia directed against Orthodoxy. My approach will be schematic and suggestive, rather than comprehensive and conclusive. The theological schism is rooted in the historical circumstances of the great Schism of the undivided Church, so it is necessary to address these issues - specifically papalism and the filioque - directly. Nevertheless, it is not my purpose merely to add my bit to a conventional Orthodox versus Catholic debate or to indulge in an anti-Western diatribe.
As a Westerner myself, one whose soul was formed by the Western heritage as filtered through the evolution of the cultural values of modernity, as well as an Orthodox Christian, I have experienced the schism of mind from heart, the deep disconnectedness in the soul of modern men that is so all-pervasive as to seem normal. The Orthodox phronema, oriented as it is toward the rejoining (relinking, re-ligioning) of heart and mind, has provided a lens with which to see more clearly and sympathetically the experience of peoples whose soul was formed from a traditional, incarnational perspective radically different from modernity. I have also experienced, however briefly and imperfectly, something of that healing that occurs to one who struggles, according to the guidelines of Orthodox spirituality to stand before God with your mind in your heart.
The theological root of the problem of the distinctiveness of Orthodoxy in the modern world may be found and clearly delineated in the debate over the unauthorized formula of the filioque. The filioque controversy, as we all know, refers to the alteration of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed by the addition of the words and the Son to the traditional creedal statement, sanctioned by the first two Ecumenical Councils, referring to the Holy Spirit as the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father. It is generally accepted by all competent Orthodox authorities, and most objective Western Christian scholars:
1) that Orthodox objection to the addition of the Filioque was traditional and consistent, while papalist promotion of the formula (whether historically or theologically justifiable or not) was innovative and intransigent;
2) that, despite the undeniable importance of historical, political and cultural factors, the basis of the conflict that led to schism was, above all, theological;
3) that the theological differences that arose between the so-called Greek East and Latin West during the Filioque controversy, far from being a debate involving mere semantics, were the foundation for differing conceptions of ecclesiology, authority, Church order and liturgical life, conceptions that had far-reaching consequences in the social, political, cultural and historical developments that led to our modern situation;
4) most important of all, that the Franco-Latin reformers who created the papalism that created Roman Catholicism and the hierarchs , theologians and apologists of the contemporary Orthodox Catholic Church of the time had different approaches to the doctrine of the Trinity.
It is not enough therefore to show that Eastern Orthodox Christianity is different from Western Christianity, but what is the essential nature and the theological basis of that difference. Too often, theologians and believers concur with secular authorities that the differences between Eastern and Western Christianity are not essentially significant. In other words, if it is not merely a matter of semantics, then it is just a matter of complementary models of ecclesiology or Church authority, or differing theological approaches that are at bottom also complementary and hence, capable of harmonization and unification, given well-disposed attempts by both sides. If this is true, differing theological models, like semantical differences, do not seem sufficient to explain pravoslavophobia.
Second, it is crucial to question certain received categories of thought by which the problem of the filioque is usually approached: for example, notions like the Greek East and the Latin West or the Byzantine empire versus the Roman empire. Fr. John Romanides, in a number of insightful articles, argues that such concepts, especially the two just mentioned, are misleading, and even false categories of thought perpetrated by the intellectual heirs of a political and cultural schism that began in the West Roman empire long before the falsely so-called Eastern Schism of 1054. It would be more correct to say Frankish North and Roman South than Greek East and Latin West.
Despite the resurgence and commendable growth of Byzantine scholarship in academia in the past 50 years and the corresponding positive academic re-assessment of the genuine achievements of Byzantium, it still needs to be stressed that there was in reality no Byzantine Empire; there was simply the Roman Empire in all its multicultural reality, centered in Constantinople. The Roman Empire did not fall at the time Augustine was writing his City of God. What happened in reality was the conquering and suppression of the West Roman people and the subsequent feudalization of the Roman Church by Germanic barbarian (Frankish) tribes.
The Roman Empire centered in Constantinople (which modern scholarship misleadingly call Byzantine) continued for another thousand years. In fact the Roman Empire was conquered in three stages: first in the West by Germanic tribes (the Franks who became Latin Christianity); then in the East by Muslim Arabs; and finally by Muslim Turks in 1453. When Orthodox scholars accept the label byzantine as I have in the past, we need to be aware that it also may mean accepting certain preconceptions and categories of thought that are not appropriate to the reality of history and theology that we are attempting to understand and evaluate. The division of patristic studies into the Greek Fathers and the Latin Fathers is another one of those widespread scholarly categories that tends to perpetuate a misconception. As Romanides writes,
There are no Latin or Greek Fathers of the Church. All Fathers of the Church within the Roman Empire are Greek speaking and Latin speaking Roman Fathers of the Church with their localities attached to their description. The Carolingian Franks literally invented the distinction between Greek and Latin Fathers of the Church. Why? In order to cover up the fact that they had no father of their church until Rabanus Maurus (776-856). So they simply broke the Roman Fathers in two and began calling them Greek and Latin Fathers of the Church. In this way they simply attached Rabanus Maurus and his successors to their so-called Latin Fathers of the Church. But the Roman Fathers who wrote in either Latin or Greek or in both Latin and Greek were neither Latins nor Greeks but simply Romans. What is absolutely amazing is the fact that in the Roman tradition since Constantine the Great the real Romans had made a clear distinction between Roman Christians and Roman Greeks. The name Roman Greek simply meant Roman Pagan. St. Athanasius the Greats book called Against Greeks simply means Against Pagans. So the Frankish title Greek Fathers of the Church means in the Roman language simply Pagan Fathers of the Church.
Third, a study of the theological roots of the problem of the filioque provides an object lesson in the truth that ideas have consequences. The history of the inclusion of the filioque in the creed is well-known. It first appeared in Spain during the conversion of the Arian Visigoths to orthodox Christianity in 589. The rationale was the need to protect the divinity and equality of the Son with the Father in the Trinity. For if the Spirit is said to proceed eternally from both the Father and the Son, then the Son cannot be conceived to be inferior to the Father (as the Arians believed). What was basically a practical solution for a local problem soon spread into Gaul where the Franks picked it up. Charlemagne decreed it valid and used it as a weapon of propaganda against the Eastern Empire. He bullied Pope Leo III (as only he could) to endorse it officially but the pope refused.
The popes (still the western patriarchs, not yet the papacy as we know it) refused to endorse officially the illicit addition time and again, even during the acrimonious Photian controversy, when Frankish missionaries were spreading the filioque in Bulgaria. It was this unwelcome Frankish ecclesiastical aggression that prompted Patriarch Photios to write the first detailed Orthodox refutation of the doctrine. Photios Mystagogia became the model for all subsequent Orthodox argument against the addition. When peace was restored, the Roman patriarch explicitly agreed with its condemnation, and freely approved the formal anathematization by the union council of 879 (which John Romanides refers to as the Eighth Ecumenical Council) of those who would attempt to revise the ecumenical creed with illegitimate words, or additions, or subtractions. This mutual agreement between Rome and Constantinople lasted until the eleventh century when, during the coronation of the German emperor Henry II (1014) the Filioque formula was adopted by Rome as well. By then the Bishop of Rome had become thoroughly a tool of the prevailing political organism, first of the Carolingian royalty, then in the chaos of the post-Carolingian decline, of the feudal system, and the Western church thoroughly feudalized, that is secularized through lay control of virtually all church property and the purchase or sale of almost every clerical grade or office.
At the dawn of the eleventh century, the situation in the Roman Church was most depressing. Papal decadence and subservience to the secular power was combined with a universal secularization (feudalization) and corruption in the Western Church as a whole. Following the resurgence of the Germanic Roman empire under Otto in 962, of the 25 popes elected in the following century, at least 21 were handpicked by the German crown. But change was in the air. Midcentury was to witness an unprecedented phenomenon which was soon to change forever the face of European civilization and set in motion the forces that created the modern world as we know it--including the prejudice we are calling pravoslavophobia: the rise of the Papal Reform Movement, otherwise known as the Gregorian Reform.
The spirit of reform first moved across the deep darkness of the Western Church in the form of the great Burgundian abbey of Cluny south of Dijon, founded by Duke William the Pious of Aquitaine in 910. Although this renewal was purely monastic in origin, it was later to provide the papacy with its own energy and drive: Clunys support of papal authority, clerical celibacy and ecclesiastical centralization will later actually prove vital to the papacys struggle for freedom from the secular power. The irony of a monastic reform movement helping to create the modern monarchical papacy will not be lost on the Orthodox who understand the vital role that monasticism plays in the spiritual health of the Church as a whole. But Cluniac monasticism, though billed as a return to the original rigor of Benedictine monasticism, was, although indeed rigorous and purifying, not at all a genuine return to the ideal of St. Benedict which in form and spirit was identical with Byzantine monasticism, but truly an innovative monastic reform in a way inconceiveable to the East. It was in fact a vast monastic empire, totally centralized, directly under the pope, and in the middle of the 11th century, controlled some 2000 dependent abbeys or cloisters. As such it was extremely effective at attacking and transforming the corruption and secularization then rampant in the Western Church.
The impact of Cluny was not lost on the Gregorian reformers. The initial Gregorian reformers were all of non-Roman origin, most coming from either Burgundy or Lorraine. With the help of the German Emperor Henry III, who chose 4 popes in quick succession starting in 1046, the reform movement got going with electrifying speed under the brilliant leadership first of the Alsatian, Leo IX in 1049 and culminated with the powerful and wily personality of Gregory VII, who ascended the papal throne in 1073. By 1085 when Pope Gregory died, all the elements of the papacy, as we know it today, were fully in place and activated.
It is highly significant that the dramatic, schismatic moment of 1054 occurred right at the beginning of the papal reform movement. It was an especially fateful moment, not so much because the actual schism can be timed to precisely that moment (actually the roots of the schism had been around for centuries earlier and the possibility of reunion continued for centuries after), but what made the moment so fateful was that the doctrinal heresy of the Filioque was at last married to the Petrusmystik: the doctrine of the unaccountability and supremacy of the Roman pontiff. Under the pressure of the arguments from the Orthodox East, the traditionally, doctrinally and theologically indefensible Filioque was only ultimately defendable by the invocation of papal authority and infallibility, and only enforceable through the imperialization of the Western Church. Theology wedded to ideology; theology at the service of--subservient to--ideology: here is the real intellectual basis of the schism.
After the eleventh century, and particularly after the four crusades culminating in the sack of Constantinople in 1204, the schism hardened, and the filioque debate, to many modern students and scholars, seemed to degenerate into a tiresome dialogue of the deaf: wrangling over a mere technicality or an endless verbal dispute over formulas. But from the Orthodox perspective, this is far from the truth, as a study of the arguments, and even of the historical reality, will show.
The defenders of Orthodoxy in the period from 1054 to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 were some of ablest theologians and profoundest thinkers in the history of the Church. Contrary to a widespread scholarly view, a study of the texts reveals that it was the Western papalists who were intransigently incapable of hearing and understanding the Orthodox arguments, while it was the Orthodox theologians, and this is especially surprising after the 1204 massacre, who made special, indeed, heroic efforts to understand and even accommodate as far as possible--not the filioque itself, to be sure--but the meaning of the trinitarian theology the Latins were using.
The prominent Romanian theologian Dumitru Staniloae identified three Orthodox theologians after 1054 who effectively advanced and clarified the Filioque debate. They were Gregory of Cyprus (Patriarch of Constantinople 1283-1289); St. Gregory Palamas (died 1359); and Joseph Bryennios, who lived in the 15th century. The arguments raised by Photius - the Filioque is an illegitimate interpolation, it destroys the monarchy of the Father and relativizes the reality of personal, or hypostatic existence in the Trinity - remained at the center of the discussion. The latter two points - the monarchy of the Father, and the primary reality of personal or hypostatic existence in the Trinity - were the great contribution of the Cappadocians. The Orthodox tradition never deviated from these.
The basis of Orthodox trinitarian theology, formulated by the Cappadocian Fathers, was at once soteriological, Biblical and experiential. The Cappadocians were preoccupied, not with speculation, but with salvation and deification. They start from the distinct Persons of the Trinity and move to the common Essence. Thus the Trinity for Greek theology was and remains a concrete experience; the One Essence was an article of faith, because of their insistence on the absolute unknowability of the Divine essence. This concrete personalism of the Greek Fathers manifested in their insistence on the monarchy of the Father: that is, the person or hypostasis of the Father is the origin of the hypostases of the Son and Spirit. The Father is the cause (aitia) and the principle (arche) of the Divine Nature, which is in the Son and Spirit. The papalists, Augustininans all, began with speculation on the unity of the Divine Being as the starting point, and the Three Persons as modes of the one nature. For them the monarchy of the Father smacked of subordinationism, but the modalism of their subordination of the persons as modes of the nature went unnoticed, and rendered post-Augustinian trinitarian theology little more than religious philosophy or abstract speculation.
As a help to understand the intricacies of the trinitarian debate which lay at the back of the Filioque controversy, I refer you to the three theological axioms that John Romanides says are essential keys to understanding the insights of Orthodox trinitarian theology. Let me begin with a quote from St. Gregory of Sinai, which in a way summarizes the three keys. It is as follows:
Orthodoxy may be defined as the clear perception and grasp of the two dogmas of the faith, namely, the Trinity and the Duality. It is to know and contemplate the three Persons of the Trinity as distinctively and indivisibly constituting the one God, and the divine and human natures of Christ as united in His single Person...Three unaltering and changeless properties typify the Holy Trinity: unbegottenness, begottenness and procession. The Father is unbegotten and unoriginate; the Son is begotten and also unoriginate; the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, as St. John of Damascus says, and is equally coeternal. (On Commandments and Doctrines, 26-27)
The three theological axioms are: 1) There is no similarity whatsoever between the created and the uncreated; 2) It is impossible to express God and even more impossible to conceive God (a famous expression of St. Gregory the Theologian); and 3) What is common in the Holy Trinity is common to all three Persons and what is individual belongs to only One Person. These three axioms are the experiential certainties that underlie all Orthodox trinitarian thought and expression. According to St. Maximos the Confessor, the purpose of the saints is to express the very unity of the Holy Trinity.
The first axiom (no similarity between created and uncreated) means that there is no possibility to understand the Divine Nature (the Uncreated) by any created means, by any philosophy, no matter how insightful or systematic, or any symbolism, or analogy, or logic whatsoever. The second axiom, (it is impossible to express God and even more impossible to conceive him) formulated by St. Gregory the Theologian in conscious criticism of Platos statement that it is difficult to conceive God and impossible to express God, is a radical affirmation of the impossibility, not only of knowing God from below, as it were, but also the impossibility of any dogmatic expression about the Divine Nature to provide an adequate understanding. This is apophaticism beyond apophaticism, a hyper-apophaticism, as Dionysios and Maximos the Confessor would say. It is a refusal to conceptualize apophatic theology as a better form of knowing God than cataphatic theology. Finally, the third axiom expresses what Orthodoxy has consistently affirmed about the Trinity since the First and Second Ecumenical Councils (4th century).
It is crucial to bear these axioms in mind to counter in ourselves the ever-present temptation to view trinitarian theology as no more than a learned (or perverse!) conceptual exercise. Most historians of dogma tend to believe, as professional intellectuals will, that the Fathers were, like Augustine, searching by speculation or meditation and contemplation to understand the mystery of God by words and concepts about Him. But the Fathers never understood the formulation of dogma as part of any metaphysical effort to intellectually understand the mystery of God and the Incarnation. St. Gregory the Theologian ridicules such approaches: Do tell me, he says, what is the unbegottenness of the Father, and I will explain to you the physiology of the generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit, and we shall both be frenzy-stricken for prying into the mystery of God.
Neither did the Fathers ever entertain the Augustinian and papalist notion that the Church understands the faith better with the passage of time. Every deification or glorification by grace or experience of theologia is a participation in all the Truth of Pentecost which can neither be added to nor better understood on a merely rational or human level. The Orthodox understanding of the relation of theology and dogma is that all who have reached glorification and true theologia testify to the fact that it is impossible to express God and even more impossible to conceive him because they know by their experience that there is no similarity between the created and uncreated. In the words of St. Maximos A perfect intellect is one which by true faith and in a manner beyond all unknowing supremely knows the supremely Unknowable; and which, in surveying the entirety of Gods creation, has received from God an all-embracing knowledge of the providence and judgement which governs it--in so far, of course, as all this is possible to man (Char. 3:99).
It is, above all, the experience of God that Orthodox dogmatic expressions seek to safeguard. This means that words and concepts which do not contradict the experience of glorification and deification and which lead to purification and illumination of the heart and theologia are Orthodox. Words and concepts which contradict deification and lead away from cure and perfection in Christ are heretical. The never-forgotten goal of safeguarding the experience of God--the experiential basis of all Orthodox dogmatic expression--is how we are to understand, for example, the alpha-privative or negative expressions of Chalcedon in speaking about the union of the two natures in Christ (without confusion, without change, without division, without separation): they do not presume to explain the mystery of the incarnation; they preserve it while protecting the way to the experience of God in Christ. The Council of Chalcedons conciliar decree begins with a solemn affirmation of the creeds of Nicaea and Nicaea-Constantinople and goes on to declare in reference to the latter:
This wise and salutary formula of divine grace sufficed for the perfect knowledge and confirmation of religion; for it teaches the perfect doctrine concerning Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and sets forth the Incarnation of the Lord to those who faithfully receive it. But, inasmuch as persons undertaking to nullify the preaching of the truth have through their individual heresies given rise to empty babblings...this present holy, great, and ecumenical council, desiring to exclude every device against the Truth, and teaching that which is unchanged from the beginning, has at the very outset decreed that the faith of the 318 Fathers [of Nicaea] shall be preserved inviolate.
St. Gregory of Nyssa says that heresies appear in those churches which have no prophets. I. M. Kontsevitch in The Acquisition of the Holy Spirit in Ancient Russia says that evidence from as early as The Didache and Church Tradition show that the prophetic function has continued in the Orthodox Church through the phenomenon of the Geron or Starets or Holy Elder.
We only have time to summarize the accomplishments of Gregory of Cyprus, Gregory Palamas and Joseph Bryennios. Basically it consists of recognizing that expressing the mystery of the Trinity requires a triad of terms--not just essence or nature and person or hypostasis, but essence, hypostasis and energy. We must account, in other words, in the language of both Gregory of Nyssa and Maximos the Confessor, for not only the principle of essence in the Trinity, the logos ousias (logos phuseos) and the mode of subsistence, the tropos hyparxeos or hypostasis, but also the mode of manifestation, the tropos delotikos or energy, that is to say, Gods eternal manifestation (phanerosis/fane/rwsij). The divine energies, also uncreated as are the hypostases and the One essence, represent the manifestation of the Trinity, both eternally in itself, and temporally and economically in the world. It is through the distinction of uncreated energies, or the mode of manifestation of the Trinity, that Gregory of Cyprus and Gregory Palamas and Joseph Bryennios sought to accommodate the Western insistence that the Son also somehow manifests the Spirit, for which the Latins had undeniable Biblical evidence. The achievement of the Orthodox theologians was to give full account for these Biblical texts, showing how the Spirit can be manifested through the Son without either compromising on the fundamental truth that the Spirit proceeds only from the Father or losing sight of the experiential reality of deification through participation in the Divine Life.
Let me conclude this very inadequate survey with the following observations. The expressions of Orthodox dogma and theology are not intended primarily to convey concepts about God, but are meant to safeguard the way to the experience of God. Orthodox theology uses philosophy and philosophical terms, but refuses to become philosophy. The Orthodox opposition to the Filioque formula is not merely the loyalty of the Orthodox to their native concepts, but is the refusal of the one and holy Churchs catholic and apostolic consciousness to speculate rationally about what the transfigured nous-heart-intellect is capable of seeing noetically and experiencing by grace. Orthodoxy itself is not merely a religion among other religions, for the Orthodox tradition has consistently refused to identify itself exclusively with institutional forms.
If Roman Catholicism is Christianity institutionalized, and Protestantism is Christianity individualized, Orthodoxy is Christianity incarnated as pillar and ground of the human culture in which it is embodied. If, to borrow the excellent expression of St Maximos the Confessor, the mode of existence (tropos hyparxeos) of Roman Catholicism in its essential papalism is necessarily authoritarian or authority in institutionalized mode, and that of the Protestant antithesis is inevitably autonomous or authority in individualized mode, that of the Orthodox Tradition is authoritative, that is, authority incarnated in community and embodied in culture and identified with in personal and historical consciousness. An institutional church is necessarily authoritarian; the reaction to institutionalism inevitably raises autonomy to supreme value. But the essence of the Orthodox Church is incarnational, and as such authoritative, that is, freely compelling obedience, loyalty and love in the way a natural family does.
Orthodoxy is the Church as pillar and ground of the Truth Incarnate, and the Church as such, as Body of Christ, is not a religion among religions or a denomination among denominations, but is essentially a hospital providing the total cure of the sickness of human souls. Orthodoxy is not one branch of the Christian tradition but it is the Church itself, in its fullness as transfigured cosmos and total cure of souls. Orthodoxy seeks ever to incarnate herself in individual souls, in societies, in order to mediate the transfiguration of those souls and societies into Christ-bearers.
When a tribe or people or nation accepts Orthodoxy, as did Greece, Serbia and Russia, for example, that Christ-incarnating force transforms the society, shaping its soul, its ethos and its values. How else to explain the astonishing history of Serbia, which at its birth breathed Orthodox monastic spirituality into its very soul and created a nation whose unifying identity is Christian martyrdom. Without a grasp of the monastic and martyric ethos of Orthodoxy, there is no way to understand how the greatest defeat in Serbian history, the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, when the defending army of the Serbian Tzar Lazar was defeated by the invading army of the Turkish Sultan, Murat, could also become the greatest and holiest national day of celebration and self-awareness of all Serbs. Indeed, the great Serbian hierarch, Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, explicitly links Kosovo with the essence of the Christian mystery. He writes:
Truly the Christian religion becomes comprehensible only when it is lived and experienced. The Lord said: Whoever keeps his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Who can understand this except one who is in a position to experience it and to live it? Is this not an evangelic mystery--one of the most profound and noble mysteries experienced and witnessed by our people from Kosovo up to the present? Did not Lazars nation lose its earthly life, together with its riches and glory for the sake of Christ? And did his people not, through this sacrifice of one life, preserve and receive a better and fuller life...If Lazars nation had regretted its mortal death at that time, if it had at that time spasmodically tried to preserve itself and had abandoned its ideals--at the apex of which was the shining cross of Christ--to be oppressed without any defense (how dreadful to even think of it!), Lazars people would have given in long ago in their weakness and nothingness, and would have lost both kingdoms and both lives to this day. However, Lazars people at that time did understand the book from Jerusalem, the holy book of destiny, just as their ruler understood it; and, by choosing the kingdom of the highest ideals, they won an immortal victory through their suffering and death.
How such a people, especially after experiencing the holocaust of 700,000 people at the hands of real Nazis and their fellow travelers as recently as the 1940s, could have been transformed by the magic of media manipulation into the image of a nation of brutal neo-nazi beasts? This is surely a sign of pravoslavophobia. I hope it goes without saying that none of this is intended to condone the internecine activity of any of the parties of the Bosnian conflict. I do not mean to idealize the Serbs or anyone else. Fallen human nature is after all fallen and subject to corruption and evil and tragedy. At the same time, pravoslavophobia allied with the self-interest and greedy power politics of Western nations has not only painted an unfair and onesided picture of Serbian people but by extension of the Orthodox faith which embodies their highest ideals and ultimately their very identity.
It is precisely the incarnational aspect of Orthodoxy revealed intellectually in the theological personalism of Orthodox trinitarian theology and culturally in the unconquerably human and familial ethos of an Orthodox nation that the secularist Western mentality can neither understand nor sympathize with. As the great Serbian theologian and savant, Justin Popovich, has written:
What does it mean for someone to profess to be Orthodox? It means this: to be part of the continuous struggle that leads from man to God-man, that is, to be involved in the unending improvement of oneself through the theanthropic mysteries, struggles, and virtues. Here the Orthodox Christian is never alone. Every feeling, act, and thought is both individual and universal, not merely personal and catholic but theanthropic. In the Church, the past is contemporary. That which is present remains so on account of the living past, since the God-man Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8), continuously lives in His divine-human body by means of the same truth, the same holiness, the same goodness, the same life and establishes the past in the present. Thus, to a living Orthodox understanding and conscience, all the members of the Church, from the Holy Apostles to those who have recently fallen asleep, are contemporary since they continuously live in Christ. Further, today in every true Orthodox individual one can find all the Holy Apostles, Martyrs, and Holy Fathers. For the Orthodox Christian these are more real than many of his contemporaries.
I commend these words - and more, a serious meditation on the profound depth of commitment and community and spiritual consciousness in these words - to any politician, ecclesiastic or academic who is genuinely seeking to understand the heroic persistence of the Serbian people to bear witness to their faith and their history on the land and in the place that God has providentially put them.
The Orthodox Trinitarian concept of Person, and especially of the monarchy of the Father as the cause and principle of differentiated Personhood in the Trinity has , I submit, the effect of creating in a people in whom Orthodoxy incarnates, a resistance to the dehumanizing, denaturizing atomization of the individual that has occurred in modern mass societies in the modern world. They remember and revere their fathers. They identify with their people. Their history is holy to them, and commands a loyalty incomprehensible to the secularized West, which is incapable of understanding a history that is impregnated with sanctified persons in whom the Person of Christ has incarnated. They are rooted in their native land in a way inconceiveable to most of us moderns whose souls have been shaped by the abstract rationalism and the disconnected consumerist values of the contemporary world.
That postmodern mentality, a creation of the Second Beast of the Apocalypse if there ever was one, instinctively hates real human beings with their natural loyalties. Tribalism, it calls it. Ignorance. Ethnism. Racism. Resistance to multiculturalism. It must be stamped out for the good of all (a.k.a., NATO, a.k.a., global market interests). I suggest that the crusading desire to make everyone, regardless of race, creed or ethnic background, submit to the same stamp on forehead or in hand is the spirit of Anti-Christ. It is alive and growing, and it knows, instinctively, that Orthodox Christianity is its only real enemy, and its ultimate conqueror.
I would like to end by saying something in solidarity with all Orthodox Serbs everywhere, those who truly venerate the sacrifice of St. Lazar, those who know that by his choosing of a heavenly kingdom over an earthly, he turned defeat into victory and established the Christian spiritual tradition of Serbia. In this prayer they speak, I believe, for all of Orthodoxy, the witnessing, suffering, rejoicing Church:
Sve je sveto i ~estito bilo, i milome Bogu pristupa~no!
All was holy and honorable, and acceptable to gracious God.
Hopefully also a few answers here for those who wonder why we still talk about Constantinople and seem to always be living in the past or holding a grudge.
And perhaps some theology discussion for those who are interested and can be respectful of other cultures.
selective silence (many pics)
I would only like to clarify the "greatest Serbian defeat" in Blackbird's (i.e. Kosovo, from the the Serbian word kos, and adjective kosovO) Field (Polye):
(1) The Serb units dispached by the Serbian king of Bosnia and territories, Tvrtko Kotromanich, actually defeted the Turkish wing they engaged and were falsley led to believe that the battle was won and returned to Bosnia bringing "good news."
(2) The Serbian heavy cavalery, commanded by Vuk Brankovich, waited by for orders to go into the battle and supposedly never received them. So they picked wild strawberries while the Serbian light infantry was getting killed in the central and right wings. Leged holds Brankovich as the personification of treason.
(3) A Serb knight by the name of Milosh Obilich went to the Ottoman camp and when lead to the Sultan killed him.
(4) The loss of the commander-in-chief was held hush-hush by his son Bayazit, who led the Ottoman army to victory against light Serb infantry the next day. Perhaps he knew that Brankovich would not intervene and took a chance.
(5) The Turkish army, having beheaded Serb nobility for refusing to convert to Islam, withdrew after the battle to what is today the Former Yugoslav Republic of Madeconia (FYRM), where they remained for almost a century before coming back to occupy Serbia and Bosnia for good.
The point is that the Battle of Kosovo in 1398 is always portrayed in simplistic terms as a win-lose encounter. Historical fact and aftermath are not so black-and-white.
Yes, the Serbs were defeated in the field for several reasons, but the Turkish army suffered great losses, was deeply wounded, and was unable to remain in the area, but had to withdraw and regroup, a process that took many decades -- the time Europe was given as a gift by the Serbs to fortify its defenses against the Ottomans. If it had not been for the Serbs, today's West European topography would be studded with mosques.
Which is exactly why I posted this. The explanation of why we are continuously ignored and left to be killed by our western brethren. Why few of them care even now about the Serbs and their plight. Just a special few here and on the net, you must agree, care at all, enough to think about how it may affect them someday as they ponder what is on television this evening.
OTOH, a full presentation separates the chaff from the wheat. :-)
I went to that church in about the fall of 1988, yes I suppose out of curiosity, but by the time I was able to visit, the weeping had stopped. I never believed it was a fraud, but I had no explanation for it.
It is possible that nah. Just thought I'd mention it.
There's quite a bit about it on the net. Sorry the photograph isn't the best quality.
The plight of the Serbians is in my heart and my prayers. If they didn't have to put up with so many foreign troops and persecution, it looks kind of neat how they live. Maybe backward to the western mind, but not lacking in the things that really matter. Simple but adequate homes, interesting architecture, and the scenery is probably pretty. I don't know how the winters would be there, probably similar to where I am.
Roughly, Albania was either about to fall apart completely or falling apart. Interesting question. We were just discussing that time period in Albania on the Solana thread.
I don't think wonders will mind my copying her comment here. Here is what she found online -
" The turning point, as far as the organized crime concerning Albanians from Kosovo was around late 1997/early 1998, I think. Oh, here we go, I found this (from The San Francisco Chronicle:
The rise of Kosovar bosses to the pinnacle of the drug trade -- and the sudden, simultaneous appearance of the KLA -- dates from 1997, when the Berisha government fell in Albania amid nationwide rioting over a collapsed financial pyramid scheme that destroyed the savings of millions and wrecked the economy. In the unchecked looting that followed, the nation's armories were emptied of weapons, explosives and ammunition."
Thanks for your interest and for making this very interesting parallel.
Maybe it has something to do with this:
"On our way back to Milwaukee, Edmund and I passed Saint Nicholas Albanian Orthodox Church. For months in this church, an icon of the Virgin had been weeping. Streams of an oily liquid formed at the bottom of the Virgin's eyes and streams of tears flowed down the painting and onto the shoulders of the baby Christ held in her lap. St. Nicholas Church became a pilgrimage center as thousands came to view the miracle. Edmund and I decided to ask a priest of the church to bless the aborted babies with the Virgin's tears. We knew our request was unusual. We left the box of approximately forty bodies in the car and went into the church hall. We thought it best to leave the aborted babies in the car until we had explained our request. We saw a priest, perhaps in his mid-fifties, in a long black cassock and wearing an eastern rite pectoral cross. He was across the small hall in conversation with a nun in a flowing gray habit. We approached them. The nun finished speaking to him, then took the priest's hand and kissed it. I was impressed with her happiness and with the obvious fondness and deference she had for the priest. She left quickly and the priest turned his attention to us. We told him we were in possession of the bodies of aborted babies and explained that we had taken them out of the trash behind an abortion clinic in Chicago. The priest was horrified and he blessed himself several times imploring the mercy of God. He then exclaimed in a charming, almost childlike way: "Did you call the police? They should know about this. They should be told."
"The clinic is not doing anything illegal. I mean it's legal to kill the babies and its legal to throw them away," I explained.
"Well, what can I do?" asked the priest.
"Will you bless the bodies with the oil coming from the Virgin's eyes?" Edmund asked.
"The kindly priest told us that the priests of the church had discerned that the Virgin wanted her tears to be used to anoint people for healing purposes and that it was a little late for that in our case. Edmund asked the priest if he would bless the bodies in the sanctuary with holy water near the weeping icon. The priest agreed. Edmund went to the car and came back with the box. We entered the church, crossing a threshold from the profane world into the sacred. Out on the street, with the cars whizzing by, was the busy material world filled with distractions. But when we entered the church we were instantly enveloped by a sacred space. The icon-covered walls and ceiling drew us into the things of heaven--all that was holy, noble and mysterious. The small church was lit only by the many pilgrim's tapers. Their dancing flames bathed the church in a warm amber glow.
"The priest told Edmund to place the box on a chair that was in the left part of the sanctuary space. The priest opened the box and was exposed to the blood-filled bags. He blessed them. He blessed them solemnly and carefully, sprinkling the holy water on them as he pronounced a blessing in the name of the Trinity.
"With the ritual finished the priest looked up at us.
"God bless you, Father," I said.
"He stood near the weeping icon and turned to leave. He glanced upon us for a second. His own eyes glistened with tears. He was overcome with emotion, and in silence he exited into the darkness of the sanctuary.
"In the night the babies lay in the middle of a trash barrel. The next day they lay in the middle of a shrine. Between the night and day the tortured moral drama of our age had been played. What is man that God should be mindful of him? So asked the biblical author. The abortion ethic has an answer to this question when its deacons of death consecrate human life to the waste containers. Only what is useful or purposefully chosen by our wills is meaningful. In the abortion ethic the human will creates the value of life. And in this war over the meaning of human life, we gave the bodies of the aborted unborn to a priest who returned them to the God who had made their lives sacred in His image.
I just stumbled across that trying to find out more about what happened in the little church in Chicago and if anyone had figured out why. I didn't mean to hijack your thread off topic, but that's where my search tonight took me.
Your post was beautiful and made me cry. Thank you so much for sharing that story. It is worth a post of its own.
In both cases I had quick replies from those of your church which were hateful of Russia.
The hate that consumes so many of you is certainly the result of the attack of the evil one recently on your church. It has shown much success when it drives you to be so hateful and mean-spirited. Many of you have not lost Christ, but I am sad for those of you who so obviously have.
I doubt that you even read the writing or understood what I was hoping it would explain. It is unfortunate since it is exactly about a separation between your mind and your heart.
It is telling that you see what you do in others. We are each a reflection of the one we serve. I hope you find your soul.
Based on the fact that my diocese provides full support of a mission church in eastern Russia, I'd posit that we actually love Russia.
Western papism, protestantism and secularism all likewise partake of a completely different understanding of the world and of ultimate realities from such East Asian religions Buddhism and Taoism, but except for the occasional protestant evangelical ranting against them as species of paganism, one senses none of the hostility which is directed toward Holy Orthodoxy. Indeed Western secularists, liberal protestants and even some Latin Christians (Thomas Merton comes to mind) are fascinated by and love flirting with Buddhism and Taoism.
And while in this, as much as in either the hatred or the blank incomprehension of Holy Orthodox exhibited by most Westerners, we see the work of the forces preparing the way of the Anti-Christ, I think we might look a little at the 'how' of the demons' prompting of fascinated tolerance for non-Christian religions along with intolerance of pure Christianty as kosta50 likes to call Holy Orthodoxy.
The fascination with Buddhism and Taoism stems from a longing for what has been lost in the Christian and then secular post-Christian West, a longing which is truely satisfied by a return to Holy Orthodoxy. But alas, it is too easy for the demons to block that path of return.
Westerners by and large will not look at Holy Orthodoxy squarely and objectively, because to do so means abandoning their most cherished preconceptions: Papists find evidence that their ecclesiology is a lie, that the Pope of Rome was never the head of the Church in the sense they imagine; protestants find their claim to have 'reformed' the Church in the sense of restoring her is likewise a lie; secularists are robbed of their talking-points against Christianity, all of which are either coopted by the Orthodox (yes, the Crusades, the Inquisition and the wars of religion were very evil things) or become irrelevant because they address the seculative theological heirs of Blessed Augustine and not the experiential (I would even dare to say, empirical--remembering that the noetic sense is the most important sense) theology of the Orthodox.
Even those who truely wish to repent of their sins sometimes have a hard time turning away from a lie they have lived all their lives. Those who fancy themselves more or less fine as they are, but are whistfully seeking something, aren't likely to discard misconceptions ingrained by their culture from their youth. And, glimpses of the fact that truth would demand they do so makes them angry. This, I think, is the 'how' of the demonic prompting to pravoslavophobia.
The problem is not the existance of non-Orthodox religions in Russia. No one is closing Roman Cathlic churches or sinagogues, or mosques there.
The core of the problem lies in the attempt to "evangelize" Russian Orthodox population! That, in effect, is telling the Russian Orthodox that they are not Christian!.
One must seriously question the motives of those who are "evangelizing" (i.e. "converting to Christianity") people who have been Christians for more than a millenium.
Given the vast multititudes of humanity who have not been baptized, the Western evangelists of all denominations must have their priorities mixed up in addition to denying one of the most Christian people their own Christianity.
We are not even talking some peripheral off-shoots of Christianity that deny Trinity, but truly orthodox followers of the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, a church with valid priesthood and Apostolic authority shared with the Roman Catholic Church, a faith with the same number of Sacraments, and Eucharistic litrurgy.
It is really sad that a church, whose membership outnumbers the Orthodox Christian faithful at least fourfold, finds it necessary to alienate, insult and politicize a church that is in every way its closest and valid relative, simply because it justifiably rejects papacy and the notion that the early Church was anything like the pope-dominated present one. That hardly seems like a valid priority for anyone interested in evalngelizing the world.
Some comments on being ethnic and Orthodox - please reply as you feel moved.
Ethnicity is an inevitable part of the journey into the Orthodox church.
For example,there is no possible way to tease apart the two issues of Russian culture and Orthodox culture. They are one and the same more than they differ.
The atheist Russian is more "Orthodox" than he or she realizes, perhaps, because of the culture in which he or she was raised.
It quite naturally leads from this that an entire country which has been led to embrace a culture of Orthodoxy, should then be treasured as such, and guarded, and attempts made to preserve her as such. From here it is only a short step to the elevation of that country to a status of "holy".
I propose that this, being a good thing of itself, is also a stepping stone into our sin of nationalism.
I welcome your comments.