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Why not Eastern Orthodoxy?
Pontifications ^ | 6/09/2005 | Al Kimel? uncertain

Posted on 06/11/2005 7:27:43 AM PDT by sionnsar

Ten years ago or so I dreamed that I was an Orthodox priest. If you had asked me even three years ago what if I would become if I ever decided to leave the Episcopal Church, I would have replied “Eastern Orthodox.” Yet today I find myself becoming what I truly never seriously considered until the past two years.

Why did I not choose to become Orthodox? Who but God can answer? All such matters are a mystery, a mystery between the mystery of the human heart and the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Rational analysis takes one only so far. All I really know is that during the past two years, as I intently studied both Orthodoxy and Catholicism, I found myself increasingly drawn, against my will and desire, and certainly to my amazement, to Catholicism.

I love the liturgy and sacramental life of the Orthodox Church. It speaks to the depths of my heart. I long to pray the Divine Liturgy and be formed by its music, poetry, beaity, and ritual.

I love the integration of theology, dogma, spirituality, and asceticism within Orthodoxy. There is a wholeness to Orthodox experience that is compelling, powerful, and attractive on many different levels. This wholeness refuses any bifurcation between mind and heart and invites the believer into deeper reconciliation in Christ by the Spirit. This wholeness is something that Western Christians particularly need, as we confront and battle the corrosive powers of Western modernity and secularism.

I love the reverence and devotion Orthodoxy gives to the saints and church fathers, who are experienced in the Church as living witnesses to the gospel of Christ Jesus. I love the icons.

And I love the theological writings of many Orthodox writers, especially Alexander Schmemann and Georges Florovsky. For all these reasons and for many more, it would have been oh so very easy for me to become Orthodox.

But two features in particular gave me pause.

First, I am troubled by Orthodoxy’s “Easternness.” The coherence and power of Orthodoxy is partially achieved by excluding the Western tradition from its spiritual and theological life. One is hard-pressed to find an Orthodox writer who speaks highly of the Western Church, of her saints, ascetics, and theologians, of her manifold contributions to Christian religion and Western civilization. According to Orthodox consensus, Western Christianity went off the tracks somewhere along the way and must now be judged as a heresy. Understandably, Eastern Christianity considers itself the touchstone and standard by which the Western tradition is to be judged.

To put it simply, Orthodoxy has no real place for St Augustine. He is commemorated as a saint, but the bulk of his theological work is rejected. The noted scholar, Fr John Romanides, has been particularly extreme. I raised my concern about Orthodoxy and the West a year ago in my blog article Bad, bad Augustine. In that article I cited one of the few Orthodox scholars, David B. Hart, who has been willing to address Orthodox caricature of Western theologians:

The most damaging consequence, however, of Orthodoxy’s twentieth-century pilgrimage ad fontes—and this is no small irony, given the ecumenical possibilities that opened up all along the way—has been an increase in the intensity of Eastern theology’s anti-Western polemic. Or, rather, an increase in the confidence with which such polemic is uttered. Nor is this only a problem for ecumenism: the anti-Western passion (or, frankly, paranoia) of Lossky and his followers has on occasion led to rather severe distortions of Eastern theology. More to the point here, though, it has made intelligent interpretations of Western Christian theology (which are so very necessary) apparently almost impossible for Orthodox thinkers. Neo-patristic Orthodox scholarship has usually gone hand in hand with some of the most excruciatingly inaccurate treatments of Western theologians that one could imagine—which, quite apart form the harm they do to the collective acuity of Orthodox Christians, can become a source of considerable embarrassment when they fall into the hands of Western scholars who actually know something of the figures that Orthodox scholars choose to caluminiate. When one repairs to modern Orthodox texts, one is almost certain to encounter some wild mischaracterization of one or another Western author; and four figures enjoy a special eminence in Orthodox polemics: Augustine, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, and John of the Cross.

Ironically, the various contributions by Perry Robinson and Daniel Jones, here on Pontifications and elsewhere, have heightened my concern. Both have sought, in various ways, to demonstrate that Western theology is incompatible with the catholic faith. While I have neither the training nor wit to follow many of their arguments, I am convinced that their project is wrong. Both presume that one can know the catholic faith independent of ecclesial commitment and formation. If one insists, for example, that St Maximos the Confessor, read through a post-schism Eastern lens, is our authoritative guide to a proper reading of the sixth Ecumenical Council, then of course Augustinian Catholicism will come off looking badly, despite the fact that Maximos was himself a great supporter of the prerogatives of Rome and despite the fact that Rome was instrumental in the defeat of monotheletism. Yet Catholicism embraces both Augustine and Maximos as saints, even though it is clear that Maximos has had minimal influence upon Western reflection, at least until very recently. Clearly Rome did not, and does not, understand the dogmatic decrees of III Constantinople as contradicting Western christological and trinitarian commitments. As much as I respect Perry and Daniel and am grateful for both their erudition and civility and their stimulating articles on these matters, it seems to me that their conclusions are more determined by their theological and ecclesial starting points than by “neutral” scholarship. And one thing I do know: there is always a brighter guy somewhere who will contest one’s favorite thesis.

Neither Orthodoxy nor Catholicism, in my judgment, can be conclusively identified as the one and true Church by these kinds of rational arguments, as interesting and important as they may be in themselves. Arguments and reasons must be presented and considered as we seek to make the necessary choice between Rome and Constantinople, yet ultimately we are still confronted by mystery and the decision and risk of faith.

If the catholicity of Orthodoxy can only be purchased by the practical expulsion of Augustine and Aquinas, then, at least in my own mind, Orthodoxy’s claim to be the one and true Church is seriously undermined. A truly catholic Church will and must include St Augustine and St Maximos the Confessor, St Gregory Palamas and St Thomas Aquinas. A truly catholic Church will keep these great theologians in conversation with each other, and their differences and disagreements will invite the Church to a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the divine mysteries. To set one against the other is not catholic, but partisan.

Second, I am troubled by the absence of a final court of appeal in controversies of faith and morals. We Anglicans are now witnessing first-hand the disintegration of a world-wide communion partially because of the absence of a divinely instituted organ of central authority. In the first millenium the Church employed the Ecumenical Council to serve as this final authority; but for the past thirteen centuries Orthodoxy has been unable to convene such a council. Is it a matter of logistics, or is the matter perhaps more serious, a question of constitutional impotence? Or has God simply protected the Orthodox from serious church-dividing heresies during this time, thereby temporarily obviating the need for such a council? Regardless, it seems to me that if Orthodoxy truly is the one Church of Jesus Christ in the exclusive sense it claims to be, then not only would it be confident in its power and authority to convene an Ecumenical Council, but it would have done so by now.

Yet as Orthodoxy begins to seriously engage the worldview and values of modernity (and post-modernity), the need for a final tribunal will perhaps become more evident. Consider just one example—contraception. It used to be the case that all Orthodox theologians would have roundly denounced most (all?) forms of contraception. But over the past twenty years or so, we have seen a growing diversity on this issue amongst Orthodox thinkers. Some state that this is really a private matter that needs to be decided between the believer and his parish priest. Clearly this privatization of the issue accords with modern sensibilities; but I am fearful of the consequences. Given the absence of a final court of appeal, does Orthodoxy have any choice but to simply accept diversity on many of the burning ethical questions now confronting us? Can Orthodoxy speak authoritatively to any of them?

For the past two years I have struggled to discern whether to remain an Anglican (in some form or another) or to embrace either Orthodoxy or Catholicism. Both Orthodoxy and Catholicism make mutually exclusive claims to be the one and true Church of Jesus Christ. We are confronted by a stark either/or choice. An Anglican is tempted to retreat to a branch theory of the Church, and on that basis make a decision on which tradition appeals to him most; but both Orthodoxy and Catholicism emphatically reject all such branch theories. There is only one visible Church. To become either Orthodox or Catholic means accepting the claim of the respective communion to ecclesial exclusivity. How do we rightly judge between them?

One thing we cannot do. We cannot pretend that we can assume a neutral vantage point. Oh how much easier things would be for all of us if God would call us on our telephones right now and tell us what to do!

The Pope convenes the College of Cardinals in emergency session. “I’ve got some good news and some bad news,” he says. “The good news is this: I just received a phone call from God!” Everyone cheers. “But here’s the bad news: God lives in Salt Lake City.”

I cannot see the Church from God’s perspective. I am faced with a choice. Good arguments can be presented for both Orthodoxy and Catholicism; none appear to be absolutely decisive and coercive. Moreoever, considerations that seem important to me are probably irrelevant to the large majority of people. “The Church is a house with a hundred gates,” wrote Chesterton; “and no two men enter at exactly the same angle.” Finally, I can only rely upon my reason, my intuitions, my feelings, my faith, under the grace and mercy of God. May God forgive me if I have chosen wrongly.

(cont)


TOPICS: Mainline Protestant; Orthodox Christian
KEYWORDS: easternchristianity; ecusa; orthodox; orthodoxchristian; orthodoxy
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1 posted on 06/11/2005 7:27:44 AM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; Hermann the Cherusker; wagglebee; St. Johann Tetzel; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-7 pings/day).
This list is pinged by sionnsar and newheart.

Resource for Traditional Anglicans: http://trad-anglican.faithweb.com

Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 06/11/2005 7:28:09 AM PDT by sionnsar (†trad-anglican.faithweb.com† ||Iran Azadi|| WA Fraud: votes outnumber voters, court sez it's okay!)
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To: FormerLib; Agrarian; Kolokotronis

Any answers to his questions?


3 posted on 06/11/2005 7:29:03 AM PDT by sionnsar (†trad-anglican.faithweb.com† ||Iran Azadi|| WA Fraud: votes outnumber voters, court sez it's okay!)
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To: sionnsar
For anyone unfamiliar with same, here's the Eastern Rite Catholic Liturgy.

Eastern Catholicism reconciled many of the issues expressed above for this former "High Church" Anglican.

4 posted on 06/11/2005 7:50:38 AM PDT by GMMAC (paraphrasing Parrish: "damned Liberals, I hate those bastards!")
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To: sionnsar
I am troubled by the absence of a final court of appeal in controversies of faith and morals.

So would I be.

5 posted on 06/11/2005 8:01:10 AM PDT by Tax-chick ("They settled down hard on a government grant, with six mouths to feed and forty acres to plant.")
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To: sionnsar
Regardless, it seems to me that if Orthodoxy truly is the one Church of Jesus Christ in the exclusive sense it claims to be, then not only would it be confident in its power and authority to convene an Ecumenical Council, but it would have done so by now

An Ecumenical Council requires the presence of the Pope or his legate, and must be attended by the Church of the East as well as the West. In addition to that, they have to profess the same faith. Thus, it is not possible for the Eastern Orthodox, or the Roman Catholic Church to call an Ecumenical Council at the present moment -- although Roman Catholics claim to have had more such councils simply because the Orthodox were invited.

The Orthodox Church was not just 'lucky' not to need 'central authority' as the author speculates -- the Eastern Church never had central authority. The Patriarch of the West, on the other hand, always ruled his Patriarchate as a central authority. The undivided Church had five Patriarch, four of whom were Eastern. Western Church never knew more than one patriarch at one time.

Could it be that the Orthodox just 'do it better' by following in the Apostolic tradition of equality among bishops and fraternal consensus?

As for the author's rambling about St. Augustine -- he apparently does not understand that individual fathers do not make pronouncements for the Church. The Ecumenical Councils do. St. Augustine was free to speculate, but the Church does not have to accept it as something carved in stone. His work was unknown to the East for over 1,000 years. Some of it is in agreement with the teachings of the East and some of it (i.e. "original sin") is rejected.

The Orthodox are not bashing Western Christianity, as this person asserts. We can read your theology. We find it unrecognizable in some cases, because the undivided Church knew not of some of the innovations added after the Schism.

The problem the Orthodox see with Western theology is best described by Prof. Alexander Kalimoros in his The River of Fire, which I highly recommend for reading by the non-Orthodox:

We find this foreign and distant. The Western concept of God is alien to the East

The divide goes along the juridical concepts of God prevalent in the West, and as such nothing even close to the Church as it was established by the patristic tradition.

Finally, the author says

“The Church is a house with a hundred gates,” wrote Chesterton; “and no two men enter at exactly the same angle.” Finally, I can only rely upon my reason, my intuitions, my feelings, my faith, under the grace and mercy of God

Well that betrays his Anglican roots, no doubt -- and Protestant mind; when it comes to truth, we trust ourselves. Adam is alive and well!

6 posted on 06/11/2005 8:31:44 AM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: kosta50
Kosta, thank you. I have tried to read "River of Fire" (I think that's what it was, the quoted text looks familiar) and while it may make sense to the Orthodox it doesn't to me. Even the logic left me behind, taking sudden turns I can't comprehend.

Unfortunately, I now have to leave for a busy day and half -- though I hope to check in tonight.

7 posted on 06/11/2005 8:45:46 AM PDT by sionnsar (†trad-anglican.faithweb.com† ||Iran Azadi|| WA Fraud: votes outnumber voters, court sez it's okay!)
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To: sionnsar
I've got a better reason for staying away from the Orthodox churches. Any group which affiliates with the WCC and even moreso the NCC is inherently suspect.
8 posted on 06/11/2005 9:50:20 AM PDT by PAR35
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To: PAR35

For those of us who didn't follow (Ok, that would be me) - what is WCC or NCC?


9 posted on 06/11/2005 10:21:00 AM PDT by TruthNtegrity (NAVCOMSTAROTA - RIP)
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To: TruthNtegrity

NCC - National Council of Churches. Gets most of its funding from the liberals at the United Methodists and Presbyterian Church USA. A collection of liberal denominations dedeicated to furthering their liberal agenda. Bible believing groups stay away from that crowd.

WCC- World Council of Churches - Left front organization with a global outlook and an anti-American agenda.


10 posted on 06/11/2005 10:42:58 AM PDT by PAR35
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To: PAR35

Thanks.

Getting offline - Arlene is coming ashore - 20 miles off shore but I have some things to do.


11 posted on 06/11/2005 11:03:22 AM PDT by TruthNtegrity (NAVCOMSTAROTA - RIP)
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To: sionnsar; Kolokotronis; FormerLib
You know, the situation that Anglicans find themselves in is so difficult that I hesitate to comment on the individual struggles that any given pilgrim has. I was not raised Anglican, but I spent 7 years "in and around" that world, and many parts of classical Anglicanism were quite influential in my own spiritual journey.

There are more former Anglicans and former Anglican clergy in Orthodoxy than you can shake a stick at. There are obviously a lot to chose to go Catholic as well. Others have elected to try to maintain Anglican distinctives in the Continuing Anglican world. Others have decided to do the best they can within "official" Anglicanism.

I think that if you look at each of these choices, you will find a lot of complex reasons for their choices. At root, I think that a lot of the things that drive these decisions depend on what kind of Anglican one was in the first place, what ones personal influences are, what ones inclinations are, and what one sees as being the deficiencies of Anglicanism.

For the author of this piece, it appears that having centralized authority is important, and it seems that his personal vision of of what Anglicanism (or rather, Christianity) should be involves an embrace of Thomistic scholastic thinking. In this case, it would really not make sense to become Orthodox.

One thing that he says that I basically agree with is when he says:

Neither Orthodoxy nor Catholicism, in my judgment, can be conclusively identified as the one and true Church by these kinds of rational arguments, as interesting and important as they may be in themselves. Arguments and reasons must be presented and considered as we seek to make the necessary choice between Rome and Constantinople, yet ultimately we are still confronted by mystery and the decision and risk of faith.

I would disagree that the choice between Rome and Orthodoxy is "necessary" for Anglicans -- it ignores the fact that some traditional Anglicans are very satisfactorily pursuing their spiritual journey within the Continuing churches and even within official Anglicanism itself, and that they have valid reasons for not wanting to convert either to Catholicism or Orthodoxy.

That said, for those who feel that they perhaps cannot remain within Anglicanism, reading books and having discussions are important things, but the centerpiece of any Anglican's decision must be "come and see."

Christianity is personal, not an abstract theology. Christian theology is learned at prayer, not with one's nose in a systematic theology textbook. To see what a church believes, see how they worship and how they live. One should visit the Orthodox churches in one's area several times, and get to know people. One should visit the Catholic churches in one's area and get to know people.

Only then can an Anglican know whether he wants to take another step on a spiritual journey, and what that step should be.

We have a retired Anglican priest who regularly attends our parish. At first, he had a lot of questions about what we believe and questions on books to read. It is interesting that, especially since going through Holy Week with us, he seems more and more to be just absorbing the services, which he attends more and more, now attending virtually every weekday and weekend service. Any discussions are about the hymns that were chanted in the service -- not in a dissecting way, but in the sense of continuing to experience them.

I have no idea whether he will become Orthodox. I don't think anyone has even discussed the matter with him, nor is there any need to, unless he decides to bring the matter up himself. We have a Methodist minister who has been attending our Vespers off and on for years, and a Catholic priest who is at Vespers more often than not. We enjoy them all, and don't presume to tell them where their journey needs to go, and when.

12 posted on 06/11/2005 11:50:32 AM PDT by Agrarian
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To: PAR35

A very valid argument. Sentiment runs very high in many parts of Orthdoxy to leave both institutions. The churches of Serbia, Georgia, Jerusalem, and Bulgaria have all passed resolutions or issued statements that to some extent reduce or eliminate involvement in the WCC. The monasteries on Mt. Athos have issued very strong statements in this regard.

The ROCOR has always held strongly that we should be involved in neither organization, and frankly this is the major sticking point in the efforts to restore communion between the ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate, now that communism has fallen. It wouldn't surprise me if the MP uses this restoration of communion as an excuse to pull out of the WCC, since the Russian hierarchy and laity seem not at all to be fond of ecumenism as it has been done in the past.

When the WCC began, leading Orthodox hierarchs and figures felt that it was the duty of the Orthodox to participate in order to give witness to the Orthodox faith. In retrospect, this was very faulty reasoning, but it is hard to put oneself back to that time today and predict what would happen. Consistently, the Orthodox have produced their own "dissenting views," to counterbalance the official declarations. At first, these where duly published, but with time the liberal cabal has more and more sidelined the Orthodox voice.

At the time that this happened, there was sentiment to withdraw, but there were many who felt that the WCC meetings were the few opportunities that Orthodox churches in the free world had to communicate with those Churches locked down under communism. Again, with hindsight, probably not good reasoning, since what often happened was the Soviet Union manipulating the Soviet bloc Orthodox churches into helping it pursue its political ends via the WCC.

At this time, there is no good reason to belong to either organization. It is clear that there is nobody in the WCC listening to what the Orthodox have to say, it is clear that there is no "iron curtain" preventing free communication with those churches in the former Soviet bloc, and it is clear that there are those, like you, who believe that our involvement in the organization implies that we agree with it theologically and politically. We do not, but it is not reasonable to expect people to come to another conclusion than that, and thus I and many, many others believe that we need to get out, and the sooner the better.

At this point, to be honest, most of what keeps us in is probably the combination of the Orthodox tendency to inertia and passive resistance rather than open conflict and high-profile sudden moves or statements. That and the fact that, as with any other church, there are people who have built their entire careers around ecumenism -- and those sorts of folks tend to have a bureaucratic mindset that allows them to effectively pursue infighting in attempts to protect their turf.


13 posted on 06/11/2005 12:12:44 PM PDT by Agrarian
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To: kosta50

*** The "God" of the West is an offended and angry God, ... What is salvation for Western theology? Is it not salvation from the wrath of God?...***

kosta50, though much of the material in your quoted text seems to evidence an misunderstanding of (at least) Protestant theology, do you not see in the Scriptures this concept of "salvation" being ultimately salvation from the wrath of God?

Romans 5:9
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Ephesians 5:6
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience

Colossians 3:6
For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:

and especially...

1 Thessalonians 1:10
And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.


14 posted on 06/11/2005 2:00:44 PM PDT by PetroniusMaximus
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To: sionnsar

***Second, I am troubled by the absence of a final court of appeal in controversies of faith and morals. We Anglicans are now witnessing first-hand the disintegration of a world-wide communion partially because of the absence of a divinely instituted organ of central authority.***


The final court of appeals is Jesus Christ, who is "standing in the middle of the lampstands" and has the power to take away the candle from any church which disobeys him.

Why we think we need to jump in there and settle all matters (often with a judicial sword might I add) is beyond me.

Jesus said, "Any plant that my Father hath not planted shall be rooted up". He didn't say, "I want you to go root them up."

If the Anglican communion disentegrates it is because the real court of appeals, the heavenly court, has passed sentence on it and it's light has been taken away.


15 posted on 06/11/2005 2:18:30 PM PDT by PetroniusMaximus
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To: Agrarian
I would disagree that the choice between Rome and Orthodoxy is "necessary" for Anglicans -- it ignores the fact that some traditional Anglicans are very satisfactorily pursuing their spiritual journey within the Continuing churches and even within official Anglicanism itself

Agreed. If this is Al Kimel, though, I vaguely recall his being very down on the Continuing churches.

16 posted on 06/11/2005 4:07:31 PM PDT by sionnsar (†trad-anglican.faithweb.com† ||Iran Azadi|| WA Fraud: votes outnumber voters, court sez it's okay!)
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To: sionnsar

Every Western Christian community has a history in Orthodoxy, using historic Western liturgies, not the Eastern Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The Orthodox West went off the track with the papal "reform" in the 9th-11th centuries, led by Frankish popes and the abbey of Cluny. This produced papal monarchy (or imperialism), the imposition of the filioque, clerical celibacy, and the Great Schism. The Norman Conquest, for example, was in part a religious war, to impose the papal "reform" on Orthodox England and Ireland.

The excesses resulting from the papal "reform" also made the Lutheran Refomation necessary. Luther and his early Lutheran colleagues were arguably trying to restore Orthodoxy to the West. But they had no living Orthodox community to serve as a template for this, so they (doing the best that they could) fell short of the mark. The other Protestants, for the most part, went even farther astray, and had no real interest in restoring Orthodoxy.

Despite the host of Orthodox theologians who attack "the heresies of the Latins", Orthodoxy is not inherently anti-Western. Western Christian churches, in dialogue with their Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters, need to find their way home. All the post-modern issues facing the Anglican, Lutheran, and even Roman Catholic communions show the reason why!


17 posted on 06/11/2005 4:09:39 PM PDT by Honorary Serb (Let's make June Serbian-American heritage month!)
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To: kosta50
The "God" of the West is an offended and angry God, full of wrath for the disobedience of men, who desires in His destructive passion to torment all humanity unto eternity for their sins, unless He receives an infinite satisfaction for His offended pride.

What is salvation for Western theology? Is it not salvation from the wrath of God?...Do you see, then, that Western theology teaches that our real danger and our real enemy is our Creator and God? Salvation, for Westerners, is to be saved from the hands of God!

It is this aspect of the "Western" God that Luther revolted against as well.

See my post #17 with respect to Luther and Orthodoxy. That post over-simplifies a lot on that subject, which is a long story indeed. Luther only knew the Orthodox Church from reading, not as a living community. And he also started from 16th century Roman Catholic terminology and presupositions. Thus he could only get so far.

18 posted on 06/11/2005 4:19:02 PM PDT by Honorary Serb (Let's make June Serbian-American heritage month!)
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To: kosta50; sionnsar; Agrarian; Kolokotronis; gbcdoj; Hermann the Cherusker

Kosta, you ought to read this passage from the article again:

"More to the point here, though, it has made intelligent interpretations of Western Christian theology (which are so very necessary) apparently almost impossible for Orthodox thinkers. Neo-patristic Orthodox scholarship has usually gone hand in hand with some of the most excruciatingly inaccurate treatments of Western theologians that one could imagine—which, quite apart form the harm they do to the collective acuity of Orthodox Christians, can become a source of considerable embarrassment when they fall into the hands of Western scholars who actually know something of the figures that Orthodox scholars choose to caluminiate. When one repairs to modern Orthodox texts, one is almost certain to encounter some wild mischaracterization of one or another Western author; and four figures enjoy a special eminence in Orthodox polemics: Augustine, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, and John of the Cross."

His point is perfectly illustrated by the commentary you have posted e.g.:

"The "God" of the West is an offended and angry God, full of wrath for the disobedience of men, who desires in His destructive passion to torment all humanity unto eternity for their sins, unless He receives an infinite satisfaction for His offended pride.

What is salvation for Western theology? Is it not salvation from the wrath of God?...Do you see, then, that Western theology teaches that our real danger and our real enemy is our Creator and God? Salvation, for Westerners, is to be saved from the hands of God!"

This nonsense is so off the wall that there are probably no Protestants or Catholics that would recognize this as bearing any resemblance whatsoever to "Western theology". It is a gross misrepresentation of St. Augustine and all the Western fathers, and it comes across, from our perspective, as something at the level of a Jack Chick comic.

If this is where you guys get your information on Western theology then no wonder we are incomprehensible to you. If you really want to understand what the West believes then I recommend that you read the Fathers and the Saints in their own words and not have them filtered for you by someone who seems to be writing from a basis of ethnic bigotry rather than rational objectivity.


19 posted on 06/11/2005 5:10:41 PM PDT by Tantumergo
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To: PetroniusMaximus; sionnsar; Kolokotronis
do you not see in the Scriptures this concept of "salvation" being ultimately salvation from the wrath of God?

The wrath of God is part of His justice, where mercy triumphs over judgment. Kalomiros says "His justice means His goodness and love, which are given in an unjust manner, that is, God always gives without taking anything in return, and He gives to persons like us who are not worthy of receiving...to the evil and impious."

And just as His thoughts and ways are not ours, neither is His justice anything like ours. From our rational point of view, His justice is "not at all just since it punishes and demands satisfaction from persons which were not at all responsible for the sin of their forefathers."

God is love and what can Love do but offer mercy and forgiveness, even to the wicked? To our very last breath, God's "punishments are loving means of correction, as long as anything can be corrected and healed in this life."

By necessity, the Scriptures describe God in anthropomorphic terms which often mislead us into a tendency to humanize God, which is a Greek pagan legacy. Ancient Greeks thought of gods as immortal and powerful humans, with human emotions and character shortcomings of jealousy, passion, etc.

We Orthodox do no such thing. It is our apophatic understanding that "God neither rejoices nor grows angry, for to rejoice and to be offended are passions; nor is He won over by the gifts of those who honor Him, for that would mean He is swayed by pleasure. It is not right that the Divinity feel pleasure or displeasure from human conditions."

Consequently, His justice -- His mercy -- is not based on passions, pleasure or satisfaction in human terms, as humans see justice. Western juridical theology incorporates this profoundly human aspect of justice as God's. Catholics and Protestants "rather consider God as being chained by a superior force, by a gloomy and implacable Necessity like the one which governed the pagan gods. This Necessity obliges Him to return evil for evil and does not permit Him to pardon and to forget the evil done against His will, unless an infinite satisfaction is offered to Him."

This stems from the fact that St. Augustine, for reasons that may have a lot to do with his own personal failings and guilt developed this idea that it was God Who deprived us of His Grace and punished us with death, rather than see that we rejected God and His Grace. Thus, to the Orthodox mindset, the whole of Western Christianity is turned upside down from the start and consequently the rest of the Western phronema follows in the same fashion.

Thus, the wrath of God is understood in the opposite way as well. We do not see God's wrath as something He does to punish humanity that He loves, as it is understood in the West. God's judgment is mercy -- but to those who hate Him, it is a wrath. His burning love for humanity that warms and animates the believers, scorches, annoys and destroys those who hate Him.

If any one of us ends up in hell, it will be our doing, not His.

20 posted on 06/11/2005 5:20:21 PM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: Tantumergo
If this is where you guys get your information on Western theology then no wonder we are incomprehensible to you

Do you not believe, teach and state that God deprived humanity of His Grace? That we are born without Grace because God punished our ancestral parents?

If you do, then our theologies are reversed from the start.

Do you not believe, teach and state that our sins can be "paid off" with indulgencies, and that the departed souls in the Purgatory are subject to physical pain that lasts until God is satisfied?

Is the Immaculate Conception dogma not based on the concept of our "original sin" and God's "punishment" of death?

The entire concept of an angry God is wholly a western product that has no place in the East. This has nothing to do with "ethnic bigotry" but by opposite and incomprehensible foundations of theology that started with Saint Augustine and his rather disturbed life.

21 posted on 06/11/2005 5:38:02 PM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: kosta50
An Ecumenical Council ... must be attended by the Church of the East as well as the West.

You've just disqualified First Constantinople.

22 posted on 06/11/2005 5:38:13 PM PDT by gbcdoj (For if thou wilt now hold thy peace, the Jews shall be delivered by some other occasion)
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To: Agrarian
I would disagree that the choice between Rome and Orthodoxy is "necessary" for Anglicans -- it ignores the fact that some traditional Anglicans are very satisfactorily pursuing their spiritual journey within the Continuing churches and even within official Anglicanism itself, and that they have valid reasons for not wanting to convert either to Catholicism or Orthodoxy.

Speaking as a 25 year continuer, I must say that I believe the choice is necessary. The collapse of the Anglican Communion has demonstrated, beyond doubt (IMO) that there is nowhere else to go. As much as we would like it to be, Canterbury is not an apostolic see. We must get back to the truly apostolic Church and that means being in communion with one of the apostolic sees.

23 posted on 06/11/2005 5:43:25 PM PDT by trad_anglican
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To: gbcdoj
You've just disqualified First Constantinople.

Constantinople I was attended by five western bishops. I was not aware that there was a "critical mass" of bishops required to make it ecumenical. The Church of the West was represented.

24 posted on 06/11/2005 5:52:21 PM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: kosta50
Catholics and Protestants ... This Necessity obliges Him to return evil for evil and does not permit Him to pardon and to forget the evil done against His will, unless an infinite satisfaction is offered to Him ... This stems from the fact that St. Augustine ...

See what a caricature this is?

Could not the Creator have restored His work without that difficulty? He could, but He preferred to do it at his own cost, lest any further occasion should be given for that worst and most odious vice of ingratitude in man. (St. Bernard, Serm. xi, in Cant.)

A thing is said to be necessary for a certain end in two ways. First, when the end cannot be without it; as food is necessary for the preservation of human life. Secondly, when the end is attained better and more conveniently, as a horse is necessary for a journey. In the first way it was not necessary that God should become incarnate for the restoration of human nature. For God with His omnipotent power could have restored human nature in many other ways. But in the second way it was necessary that God should become incarnate for the restoration of human nature. Hence Augustine says (De Trin. xii, 10): "We shall also show that other ways were not wanting to God, to Whose power all things are equally subject; but that there was not a more fitting way of healing our misery." (St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, III q. 1 a. 2)

developed this idea that it was God Who deprived us of His Grace and punished us with death, rather than see that we rejected God and His Grace

A way was made for us to death through sin in Adam. For, "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned." Of this way the devil was the mediator, the persuader to sin, and the caster down into death. For he, too, applied his one death to work out our double death. Since he indeed died in the spirit through ungodliness, but certainly did not die in the flesh: yet both persuaded us to ungodliness, and thereby brought it to pass that we deserved to come into the death of the flesh. We desired therefore the one through wicked persuasion, the other followed us by a just condemnation; and therefore it is written, "God made not death," since He was not Himself the cause of death; but yet death was inflicted on the sinner, through His most just retribution. Just as the judge inflicts punishment on the guilty; yet it is not the justice of the judge, but the desert of the crime, which is the cause of the punishment. (St. Augustine, De Trinitate, IV, 12:15)

Your argument is, as I read it, a protest against the idea of the loss of immortality as a divine punishment. But the Greek Fathers have the exact same doctrine!

But when through the Devil's malice and the woman's caprice, to which she succumbed as the more tender, and which she brought to bear upon the man, as she was the more apt to persuade, alas for my weakness! (for that of my first father was mine), he forgot the Commandment which had been given to him; he yielded to the baleful fruit; and for his sin he was banished, at once from the Tree of Life, and from Paradise, and from God; and put on the coats of skins ... that is, perhaps, the coarser flesh, both mortal and contradictory. This was the first thing that he learnt--his own shame; and he hid himself from God. Yet here too he makes a gain, namely death, and the cutting off of sin, in order that evil may not be immortal. Thus his punishment is changed into a mercy; for it is in mercy, I am persuaded, that God inflicts punishment. (St. Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 38, on the Theophany)
It was for this reason, too, that immediately after Adam had transgressed, as the Scripture relates, He pronounced no curse against Adam personally, but against the ground, in reference to his works, as a certain person among the ancients has observed: "God did indeed transfer the curse to the earth, that it might not remain in man." But man received, as the punishment of his transgression, the toilsome task of tilling the earth, and to eat bread in the sweat of his face, and to return to the dust from whence he was taken. (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III, 23:3)
But as when a law has commanded abstinence from anything, and some one has not obeyed, it is obviously not the law which causes punishment, but the disobedience and transgression;--for a father sometimes enjoins on his own child abstinence from certain things, and when he does not obey the paternal order, he is flogged and punished on account of the disobedience; and in this case the actions themselves are not the [cause of] stripes, but the disobedience procures punishment for him who disobeys;--so also for the first man, disobedience procured his expulsion from Paradise. ... And God showed great kindness to man in this, that He did not suffer him to remain in sin for ever; but, as it were, by a kind of banishment, cast him out of Paradise, in order that, having by punishment expiated, within an appointed time, the sin, and having been disciplined, he should afterwards be restored. (Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, II, 25-26)
MAN, then, was thus snared by the assault of the arch-fiend, and broke his Creator's command, and was stripped of grace and put off his confidence with God, and covered himself with the asperities of a toilsome life (for this is the meaning of the fig-leaves); and was clothed about with death, that is, mortality and the grossness of flesh (for this is what the garment of skins signifies); and was banished from Paradise by God's just judgment, and condemned to death, and made subject to corruption. (St. John Damascene, Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, III, 1)

25 posted on 06/11/2005 6:21:27 PM PDT by gbcdoj (For if thou wilt now hold thy peace, the Jews shall be delivered by some other occasion)
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To: kosta50

"An Ecumenical Council requires the presence of the Pope or his legate" - there were no legates at First Constantinople. How could the Church in the West be represented without her Patriarch, anyway?


26 posted on 06/11/2005 6:28:48 PM PDT by gbcdoj (For if thou wilt now hold thy peace, the Jews shall be delivered by some other occasion)
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To: kosta50
Is the Immaculate Conception dogma not based on the concept of our "original sin" and God's "punishment" of death?

The Immaculate Conception is based upon the idea that the Fall deprived Adam's descendants of original justice, and therefore left man condemned and subject to the devil.

Since St. Photius affirmed the Immaculate Conception before the doctrine was explicitly recognized in the West, it would be rather strange to blame it on Western theology.

27 posted on 06/11/2005 6:37:51 PM PDT by gbcdoj (For if thou wilt now hold thy peace, the Jews shall be delivered by some other occasion)
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To: gbcdoj
Since St. Photius affirmed the Immaculate Conception before the doctrine was explicitly recognized in the West, it would be rather strange to blame it on Western theology.

That's strange since the Greek Orthodox website says the exact opposite.

PHOTIUS' ENCYCLICAL TO FIVE PATRIARCHS OF THE EAST (866) Patriarch Photius of Constantinople was an outstanding hierarch and leader who as a layman was elected patriarch by vote of the people and ecclesiastical authorities. He brought order to the Church and increased its missionary work, especially in Bulgaria. What became another major source of the teachings of the Church is the encyclical epistle of Photius sent to the Patriarchs of the East, with the consent of the Synod of Constantinople, protesting against the innovations of Pope Nicholas I of Rome: his interference in the affairs of the newly-converted nation of Bulgaria, the addition of the filioque phrase in the Nicene Creed, the issuing of the Pseudo-Isidorian Decrees and the Pseudo-Constantian Gift. This encyclical of Photius restated the correct teaching of the Nicene Creed, opposing the filioque phrase; correctly asserted the canonical jurisdictional order of administration of the Church; reaffirmed the correct teaching against the primacy of the pope, his infallibility, the riches of Christ and the saints, indulgences, purgatory, the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and her bodily assumption. All of these innovations of the West were among the factors which ultimately led to the Great Schism in 1054, setting the stage for the Protestant movement in 1517 as well. Photius' great encyclical restated and reaffirmed the orthodox teaching of the Undivided Church, and stands as a major source of Orthodox teaching.

http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article7064.asp

28 posted on 06/11/2005 6:58:11 PM PDT by katnip
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To: katnip
That's strange since the Greek Orthodox website says the exact opposite.

That page is amazingly anachronistic. The treasury of merits? That wasn't even formulated until the scholastics. St. Nicholas I never added the filioque to the Creed, etc. If you look up St. Photius' actual letter you won't find that stuff in there. The Immaculate Conception was unknown to the West in the ninth century.

Moreover, your cite claims that St. Photius wrote against the bodily Assumption of Mary!!!!! Surely you know how incorrect that must be.

29 posted on 06/11/2005 7:29:53 PM PDT by gbcdoj (For if thou wilt now hold thy peace, the Jews shall be delivered by some other occasion)
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To: katnip

But citing secondary sources against each other is not really going to work, is it? I'll drop you a note if I get a chance in the future to look over +Photius' homilies on the Annunciation and the Nativity of the Mother of God which Fr. Kucharek cites as teaching the Immaculate Conception.


30 posted on 06/11/2005 7:44:50 PM PDT by gbcdoj (For if thou wilt now hold thy peace, the Jews shall be delivered by some other occasion)
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To: gbcdoj
there were no legates at First Constantinople. How could the Church in the West be represented without her Patriarch, anyway?

In those days, all bishops were still considered equal, so I suppose the Romnan See did not object, and the Church did not have one Patriarch.

Councils were called to convene by the Roman Emperor, and the term ecumenical in those days was synonimous with imperial.

I am not exactly clear as to why the Latins recognize Constantinople I. Maybe you can shed some light on that. But, then, you can also disavow it as ecumenical -- it's all the same to me.

31 posted on 06/11/2005 7:54:52 PM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: gbcdoj; katnip
Different fathers said different things. Obviously, St. Augustine is recognized as a saint in the East although a good portion of his writings and teachings are not accepted.

What is important, gbcdoj, and what you Latins always seem to ignore, is that the Immaculate Conception or the Filioque were not accepted by the Church officially in the first millennium, regardless of what some individual fathers said at one time or another. Fathers do not make pronouncements for the whole church. Only the Ecumenical Councils do. Fathers speak for themselves; they are not inspired and infallible.

As far as the undivided Church was concerned, neither was the Pope the Patriarch, nor was there Immaculate Conception, nor Filioque, nor indulgencies, etc. no matter what some fathers said.

32 posted on 06/11/2005 8:01:47 PM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: trad_anglican

Clearly, I felt the need to leave Anglicanism for Orthodoxy. I believe that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. This has not so much to do with technical/legalistic points of whether one is in communion with an apostolic see as it does with whether there is a true apostolic succession of the fullness of the faith, as well as of the laying on of hands.

If you believe that your Anglican bishop is a bishop in a tradition that holds the fullness of the apostolic Christian faith, then you believe that he is a successor of the apostles, and you should believe that where he and his flock are gathered together in Christ's name, there is the Church in its fullness. If one doesn't believe that one's bishop is a bishop, or that the fullness of the apostolic Christian faith is believed by that bishop and his flock, then I would think that one would choose to seek out something else. You seem to have arrived at that conclusion, or to be in the process of coming to it, and things will take their natural course as a result of it.

My point was that it is a bit presumptuous of the author in question to tell Anglicans that they *must* choose between Rome and Orthodoxy. Most obviously they need not do any such thing, unless they want to, and most don't.

Statements like the one I quoted from this author remind me of the "you Orthodox *must* be in communion with the Roman Catholic church, or you're not in the Church" stuff. It speaks of legalism, of juridical conceptions of what makes one a member of Christ's body, and generally, of putting the cart before the horse.


33 posted on 06/11/2005 8:06:33 PM PDT by Agrarian
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To: kosta50
I am not exactly clear as to why the Latins recognize Constantinople I. Maybe you can shed some light on that.
Ecumenical Councils are those to which the bishops, and others entitled to vote, are convoked from the whole world (oikoumene) under the presidency of the pope or his legates, and the decrees of which, having received papal confirmation, bind all Christians. ... The second rank is held by the general synods of the East or of the West, composed of but one-half of the episcopate. The Synod Of Constantinople (381) was originally only an Eastern general synod, at which were present the four patriarchs of the East (viz. of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem), with many metropolitans and bishops. It ranks as Ecumenical because its decrees were ultimately received in the West also.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia.

34 posted on 06/11/2005 8:07:34 PM PDT by gbcdoj (For if thou wilt now hold thy peace, the Jews shall be delivered by some other occasion)
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To: sionnsar
To understand Kosta's post you need to constantly think of two things. First God loves us. Everything that happens to us especially the bad stuff is a result of God's love for us. I remember hearing a story about a woman who had just lost her child after being hit by a car. Understandably the woman was a mess and very distraught she went into her Church crying and hysterical, screaming, "why,why would God do this to me." while she was in the Church that day she had a vision. The vision was of when the child was older, he would have been a drunk and lost his soul so God took him when he was young. One other thing about kosta's post is that we tend to think of the entire experience into Orthodoxy as a journey, a spiritual struggle and a transformation. One thing about myself that I can honestly say, is that I am not the same person that I was which believe me is a good thing. As for Orthodox Christians and the belief about death, we also believe that God will take us at our best point. Finally, since I started going to Church on a regular basis one of the many changes that has happened to me is that for the most part I have stopped dreaming. Honestly the nights that I have dreamed since then have been few and far between. But what we are taught about dreams is that if you see a Cross, Church or a Priest the dream is from God. My friend if I did not know any better God is calling you. Finally what I would recommend is that you might want to talk to someone. My Priest here in New York converted to Orthodoxy from Catholicism and my Priest in Houston was studying to become a Catholic Priest when he converted to Orthodoxy. That Priest now hails from Seattle. Feel free Freep mail me if you have any questions. Good luck to you.
35 posted on 06/11/2005 8:15:16 PM PDT by peter the great
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To: kosta50
What is important, gbcdoj, and what you Latins always seem to ignore, is that the Immaculate Conception or the Filioque were not accepted by the Church officially in the first millennium

Might I point out that neither was the distinction between God's essence and energies - dogmatized for the Orthodox by the Palamite synods in the fourteenth century? And I think a good case can be made for official acceptance of the filioque based on the approbation of St. Cyril's second synodical letter by the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (this was a key argument of Traversari at the Council of Florence).

At any rate, I think +Photius can safely be trusted to be free from the taint of Augustine's doctrines, and he apparently had no problem with the Immaculate Conception.

36 posted on 06/11/2005 8:19:25 PM PDT by gbcdoj (For if thou wilt now hold thy peace, the Jews shall be delivered by some other occasion)
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To: gbcdoj
was banished from Paradise by God's just judgment, and condemned to death, and made subject to corruption

Selective reading misses the big picture. That's the problem with Protestant "Bible wars" -- there is a counter-quote for every quote.

St. John Damascene (Book II), also says "For God did not create death, neither does He take delight in the destruction of living things. But death is the work rather of man, that is, its origin is in Adam's transgression."

And what was the nature of such transgression? That transgression was not the disobedience, as the West teaches, i.e. the eating of the fruit. The disobedience did not get Adam and Eve to die!

Instead, the merciful God gave Adam a chance to repent (as He does to all of us). But, in his arrogance and pride, Adam blames God! Death came into the world when Adam and Eve separated themselves from the life-giving God, and not as a result of God taking His Grace from our ancestral parents, or even because of their disobedience.

We are all disobedient. But God, in His unchanging and everlasting loving mercy makes all of us the same offer -- to repent so that we may live.

37 posted on 06/11/2005 8:35:43 PM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: gbcdoj
"In Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, an ecumenical council is a meeting of the bishops of the whole church convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice." (Wikipedia)

If we could just agree on what the 'whole' church is, we could understand why no ecumenical council took place after the 7th.

38 posted on 06/11/2005 8:45:58 PM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: gbcdoj; kosta50; katnip

If you want to see what the Orthdoox Church teaches, look at her liturgical services, which are lengthy, detailed, and ancient.

I have written on this at length elsewhere. The services of the Orthodox Church for the feast of the Dormition are dominated by language about the Theotokos dying, and about Christ receiving her soul. This is depicted in every icon of the Dormition, with Christ holding an infant Theotokos in his arms, representing her soul, and a dead or dying Theotokos lying in the midst of the Apostles.

The second most common thing talked about is her "translation" from earth to heaven. The language is ambiguous -- sometimes it is clearly talking about her soul, at other times it could conceivably be her body. There are a few references in the services, though, that seem to indicate that she was taken up bodily into heaven. But even these are not crystal-clear -- and usually, when the Orthodox Church is talking about a dogma, the services are not only crystal-clear, but they approach it explicitly from so many directions that you really can't mistake it.

For instance, if one looks at the service for the Annunciation, just finished (and at the icon) -- Christ's bodily Ascension into heaven couldn't be more explicitly spelled out. There just isn't anything like that about the Theotokos.

I personally think that the witness of the Orthodox Church's tradition points to the Theotokos being resurrected and brought to heaven to be united with her soul, but it is not by any stretch the central message of the feast we commemorate on August 15.

Regarding the Immaculate Conception, I would need to see the exact quotations, in context, from St. Photius before I would believe that there was this teaching coming from him. There appears to be confusing in the Catholic Church regarding what the feast of the Conception of the Theotokos means and meant to the Orthodox. Both canons in the service for this feast are canons "of Anna," and at least the first one dates back to the 700's.

There is nothing in the services that could remotely be construed as reflecting the teaching of the Immaculate Conception, other than one hymn that speaks of the incorrupt womb of the Virgin and the corrupt womb of Anna. This would really be stretching it, since the obvious explanation is that the Theotokos lived a morally guiltless life, and that her womb was sanctified by the bodily presence of Christ, whereas we could say neither of St. Anna.

The manuscript tradition is so old, and the conservatism of our service books so great, that one can only assume that this means the Church didn't teach the IC. If it were taught, it would be at least mentioned in the service -- even if only as obliquely and ambiguously as the bodily assumption of the Theotokos is mentioned on the feast of 15 August. But rather, the miracle of the conception of the Theotokos by St. Anna that fills every corner of the services is her miraculous conception by parents too old to conceive.

This has implications, since Pius IX appeals to the Eastern origin of the feast of the Conception of the Theotokos (quite true), and furthermore he said that only two conceptions are commemorated by the Church. This is, as any Orthodox Christian, not true, since the equally miraculous conception (also by parents too old to conceive) of St. John the Baptist has its own feast in September -- a feast which homiletical evidence shows existed at least by the 5th century in the Church of Jerusalem. The main hymnography in our services date to the 700's and 800's.


39 posted on 06/11/2005 9:15:40 PM PDT by Agrarian
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To: Agrarian
It's unfortunate that quotations from +Photios and the other authors aren't provided. I suspect Fr. Kucharek is overstating his case, actually (he gets the Patriarchical Encyclical of 1895 wrong and states that it objects only to dogmatizing of the IC - actually it rejects the whole doctrine on the basis that Christ alone was immaculately conceived). If I can find them in the future I will post them here.

My point is simply that Augustine hadn't even been translated into Greek before the fourteenth century (Fr. Romanides says this IIRC) - I doubt that a belief in the IC among post-Photian Greek authors can be attributed to Western influence. When the Feast of the Conception of the Mother of God was introduced into the West, it was immediately opposed on the basis of rejection of the IC, so it seems a bit strange that in the East it could never have carried any suggestions of the IC.

You are right that Pius IX gets it wrong in "Ineffabilis Deus":

"By this most significant fact, the Church made it clear indeed that the conception of Mary is to be venerated as something extraordinary, wonderful, eminently holy, and different from the conception of all other human beings -- for the Church celebrates only the feast days of the saints."

- all the more strange since St. John the Baptist's conception was also commemorated in the Western calendar.

The Catholic Encyclopedia argues that the IC implied in the feast of her conception: "In the Office of 9 December, however, Mary, from the time of her conception, is called beautiful, pure, holy, just, etc., terms never used in the Office of 23 September (sc. of St. John the Baptist)". Do you suppose that might have any basis?

40 posted on 06/11/2005 9:39:18 PM PDT by gbcdoj (For if thou wilt now hold thy peace, the Jews shall be delivered by some other occasion)
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To: gbcdoj

The piece by Kucharek is the first that I have ever heard of any Orthodox writers promoting the idea of the IC. Again, I would really have to see the quotations, and see the context. I'm inclined to think, with you, that he is really stretching the case.

I think that the confusion probably stems from the fact that we Orthodox do refer to the Theotokos as being "immaculate," "most pure," "blameless," etc...

Fr. Kucharek's confusion on this point is exemplified by his citing as evidence for Orthodox belief in the IC the hymn that we sing at virtually every Liturgy of St. John Chysostom: "It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim. Without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word. Pure Theotokos, we magnify thee!"

The term "most pure" is in other translations termed "blameless" or "immaculate." The Greek term also means "without spot," like that of the Latin term, "immaculate." I think that someone schooled in Western ideas of original sin (at least in traditional formulations) couldn't imagine how someone someone conceived with original sin could be spoken of as being "immaculate," "without spot," etc...

But for Orthodox Christians, who believe that the result of the ancestral sin is death and corruption -- full stop, there is no such problem. The Theotokos didn't sin, according to our quiet inner tradition, so she was truly "immaculate." But she was born with exactly the same effects of the ancestral sin that we were. Her immaculateness has nothing to do with her conception, for us. Again, if this were a part of our tradition, it would be reflected in some way in our services.

The question about why the Theotokos is referred to as "pure," "holy," etc... from the time of her conception is an interesting one at first glance, but it doesn't bear up, because at least in Eastern services, there is a conflation of time, or rather, everything is taken out of time and into an eternal present. For instance, she is referred to in the present tense (i.e. at the time of her conception) as the Theotokos even though she has yet to give birth, as ever-Virgin even though she has yet to be this, etc... To give an idea of the way that tenses are mixed in this "liturgical time," consider this troparion from the first Ode of the canon:

The glorious Anna now conceiveth (present tense) the pure one who conceived (past tense) the all-good, incorporeal Lord, and who will give birth (future tense) in the flesh unto Christ.

The thing that makes the conception of the Theotokos theologically significant is what she will do: i.e. live a sinless life, achieve theosis, be perfectly obedient to God, conceive God in the flesh. All of that is therefore transferred back to her when talking about her at both her conception and her birth, in the Orthdoox services.

St. John the Baptist did not live a sinless life, so we would not speak of him as "immaculate" at any time, least of all at his conception. He is spoken of at the time of his conception in the present tense regarding things that he will do in the future in a similar way, though.


41 posted on 06/11/2005 10:25:15 PM PDT by Agrarian
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To: gbcdoj; Agrarian
I have a question for both of you -- and this is somewhat off the topic.

Speaking of the Theotokos, when did the Church actually begin to venerate her? It is somewhat strange that her place and date of death is not mentioned even by John who outlived her, considering who she was.

Saint Paul mentions her by name, and although he probably outlived her too, she does not appear as the central figure in the Epistles of the New Testament, with the possible exception of a hint (not by name) in the Revelations.

Obviously, the Apostles and their immediate successors did not consider her even close to the Marian reverence of the Church centuries later. She did not become the subject of post-Resurrection writings even of the people closest to Jesus.

I believe that the Gospel of James speaks in greater detail about her, but then it is not part of the New Testament. It expands on the Gospel of Mark and Matthew and is the earliest text that claims perpetual virginity of Mary as well as the first source known to claim Joseph was a widower -- which of course is not made by any of the four Gospels of the NT.

The consensus is that it was written around 150 AD by someone who claims to be the brother of Jesus (Origen states that he would be His cousin). So, while the entire gospel is rejected along with those of the Gospel of Thomas, the so-called "infancy gospels," the Church uses parts of it (virginity and Joseph being the widower). But this pushes the virginity and sinlessness of the HVM to a century after her death, leaving one to ponder why was her blessedness not obvious from the beginning even to the Apostles, as well as who and where started the Marian devotion?

42 posted on 06/11/2005 10:41:50 PM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: kosta50; gbcdoj

All good questions, and ones that there can really be no definitive answers to. If one takes a Sola Scriptura approach, then there is no evidence for the veneration of the Theotokos in the Scripture.

It would appear that the obscurity of the origins are due to the fact that this is a part of the inner tradition of the Church, and not a part of the public witness, which is what the Scripture is primarily about. It would have been problematic, to say the least, to emphasize the Theotokos during her lifetime, since this could have detracted from Christ. There was also the Hebrew tradition of women keeping silent -- it was the role of the apostles to preach, and to preach Christ. The tradition of the Church also indicates that the Theotokos, being so physically linked to Christ, who took flesh from her, could do no other than to live a life of unceasing prayer after he ascended to the Heaven. She is, for this reason, seen as the exemplar of monasticism and hesychia.

Flipping it on its head, it is always helpful to ask these questions from the opposite standpoint: i.e. why is there an absence of polemical liturature questioning the veneration of the Theotokos? One would assume that if something new were being introduced into the Church, someone would complain about it, rather loudly. If there is one thing we know about the Church of the first few centuries, it is that they weren't afraid to hash things out to the nth degree if there was the least bit of controversy.

I remember reading an debate between a Reformed Calvinist and a Baptist over the question of infant baptism. The Baptist had to admit that the practice of infant baptism must have begun very, very, early in the history of the Church, since there is no record of any polemical literature questioning the rightness of baptizing infants. He still believed that baptizing infants was wrong, since Scripture didn't teach it, but he had to admit that the practice must have begun at least shortly after the time of the apostles.

I would therefore think that the veneration of the Theotokos would likewise have to have been universal and uncontroversial in the Church within at least a century of the death of the apostles.

Regarding the Protoevangelion of James, I think that it perhaps isn't wise to say, as some do, that our accounts of the conception, birth, entrance, etc... of the Theotokos come from those books. They are part of a collection of books that was handed down within the Gnostic tradition, and the texts themselves should be approached with caution.

What is important to remember about the various Gnostic Gospels and Epistles is that the Gnostics used various techniques to back up their particular views. One technique was to take the "real" New Testament and exise parts they didn't like. Another was to take the "real" New Testament and ascribe Gnostic interpretations to it. Another was to add in passages that suited their fancy. And yet another was to compose entirely new books, and put the names of apostles on them.

Now, it is obvious that the way that these books would be most believable would be if they related stories that everyone knew because of oral tradition -- the Gnostic specifics could then be added onto this. The Gnostics weren't interested in whether Joachim and Anna were old and childless and that an angel appeared to Joachim in the fields. They were interested in their esoteric teachings, and using Christian tradition, particularly tradition that wasn't recorded in the New Testament, was a perfect way for them to trick people into accepting their teachings.

(Note that these techniques are basically the same techniques used by modern textual and higher critics of the Scripture.)

So, one can perhaps learn some historical things of interest from even the Gnostic writings, especially if they are things without doctrinal overtones. They may have been the factual skeleton on which the Gnostics built credibility for their books.

I think that the place to look for authentic teaching on the Theotokos are in the festal homilies of the fathers, and in the services themselves. These reflect the separate, uninterrupted, inner tradition of the Church about the Theotokos.


43 posted on 06/11/2005 11:29:16 PM PDT by Agrarian
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To: Agrarian; gbcdoj
These reflect the separate, uninterrupted, inner tradition of the Church about the Theotokos

Which, of course, must be taken on faith alone (sola fide of sorts for Apostolic Churches!).

But your answer carries a lot of merit, I believe, in that there was no overt dissension to the development of Marian veneration, and that the Church in its entirely accepted it on some knowledge which is not directly known to us today.

Thank you Agrarian.

44 posted on 06/12/2005 1:55:44 AM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: kosta50; Agrarian; gbcdoj
You guys are doing a great job here. I wish I had been around for the discussion, but the lake called! No infernal computer there!

Oh, and Kosta, +Ignatius of Antioch speaks of Panagia quite a bit and wrote to her on several occasions.
45 posted on 06/12/2005 6:41:45 AM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis; Agrarian; gbcdoj
You guys are doing a great job here

Thank you Kolo. The heavyweights are Agrarian and gbcdoj. I will look up +Ignatius and Panagia.

46 posted on 06/12/2005 7:21:59 AM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: Kolokotronis; Agrarian; gbcdoj
+Ignatius indeed mentions Marian devotion (as early as 107 AD) as salvific ("no one will be lost"), according to some sources. In view of that, is it not at least a little curious that only 40 or so years earlier +Paul would not make an exception when he asserts in Romans, in more than one place, that all have sinned? Is it not somewhat of a puzzle that Marian devotion grew inversly propotional to the Apostolic successors?

Is it not a far cry from the obscurity of the early Apostolic Church (1st century) with regard to Mary, and calling her all-powerful (i.e. omnipotent) almost 2,000 years later (in the Latin Church)?

How is it that we venerate her more than the early Christians, Apostles notwithstanding?

47 posted on 06/12/2005 7:52:17 AM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: Agrarian; PAR35
The churches of Serbia, Georgia, Jerusalem, and Bulgaria have all passed resolutions or issued statements that to some extent reduce or eliminate involvement in the WCC. The monasteries on Mt. Athos have issued very strong statements in this regard.

The Church in Georgia is completely out of the WCC, btw. Almost ten years ago, many clergy and monastics had a sort of uprising about it and Patriarch Ilia conceded membership.

The Georgian Church is very conservative and has an extremely strong monastic community. I say this from recent firsthand experience and discussion with several clergy and one Abbess, all of whom speak English.

48 posted on 06/12/2005 10:50:10 AM PDT by MarMema
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To: kosta50

"Do you not believe, teach and state that God deprived humanity of His Grace? That we are born without Grace because God punished our ancestral parents?"

No.

"Do you not believe, teach and state that our sins can be "paid off" with indulgencies, and that the departed souls in the Purgatory are subject to physical pain that lasts until God is satisfied?"

No.

"Is the Immaculate Conception dogma not based on the concept of our "original sin" and God's "punishment" of death?"

No.

"The entire concept of an angry God is wholly a western product that has no place in the East."

Again, a caricature.


49 posted on 06/12/2005 11:33:25 AM PDT by Tantumergo
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To: kosta50; Agrarian; gbcdoj
Speaking of the Theotokos, when did the Church actually begin to venerate her?

http://www.maristoz.edu.au/spirituality/sub_tuum.html

We fly to your patronage, 0 holy Mother of God; despise not our prayers in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.

....

In the Coptic Rite of the third century, for instance, the Sub Tuum was part of the liturgical office of Christmas. At the end of that century, Patriarch Theonas of Alexandria built the first real church for local Christians (who prior to that time were accustomed to assemble in homes and cemeteries) and called it the Church of St Mary Virgin and Mother of God. Thus, it is evident that Alexandrian Christians were already calling Mary the "Mother of God" in the third century - long before St Athanasius, who was usually credited with coining the phrase.


50 posted on 06/12/2005 12:43:32 PM PDT by Hermann the Cherusker
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