Pope Benedict’s message to Albanian Orthodox

From Zenit:

Christ’s Saving Message Has Borne Fruit in Your Country

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 4, 2009 — Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania, who is the head of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania.

* * *

Your Beatitude,

Abp. Anastasios

Abp. Anastasios

“Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 1:2). I am pleased to extend a fraternal welcome to Your Beatitude and to the other distinguished representatives of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania accompanying you today. I recall with gratitude, in spite of the sad circumstances, our meeting at the funeral of the late Pope John Paul II. I also remember with satisfaction how my same venerable Predecessor had the occasion to greet you in Tirana during his Apostolic Visit to Albania.

As is well known, Illyricum received the Gospel in Apostolic times (cf. Acts 17:1; Rom 15:19). Since then, Christ’s saving message has borne fruit in your country down to our own day. As the very earliest writings of your culture bear witness, through the survival of an ancient Latin baptismal formula along with a Byzantine hymn about the Lord’s Resurrection, the faith of our Christian forefathers left wonderful and indelible traces in the first lines of the history, literature and arts of your people.

Yet the most impressive witness is surely always found in life itself. During the latter half of the past century, the Christians in Albania, both Orthodox and Catholic, kept the faith alive there in spite of an extremely repressive and hostile atheistic regime; and, as is well known, many Christians paid cruelly for that faith with their lives. The fall of that regime has happily given way to the reconstruction of the Catholic and Orthodox communities in Albania. The missionary activity of Your Beatitude is recognized, particularly in the reconstruction of places of worship, the formation of the clergy and the catechetical work now being done, a movement of renewal which Your Beatitude has rightly described as Ngjallja (Resurrection).

Since it acquired its freedom, the Orthodox Church of Albania has been able to participate fruitfully in the international theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox. Your commitment in this regard happily mirrors the fraternal relations between Catholics and Orthodox in your country and offers inspiration to the entire Albanian people, demonstrating how it is possible for fellow Christians to live in harmony.

In this light, we would do well to emphasize the elements of faith which our Churches share: a common profession of the Nicene–Constantinopolitan creed; a common baptism for the remission of sins and for incorporation into Christ and the Church; the legacy of the first Ecumenical Councils; the real if imperfect communion which we already share, and the common desire and collaborative efforts to build upon what already exists. I am reminded here of two important initiatives in Albania, the establishment of the Interconfessional Biblical Society and the creation of the Committee for Interreligious Relations. These are timely efforts to promote mutual understanding and tangible cooperation, not only between Catholics and Orthodox, but also among Christians, Muslims and Bektashi.

I rejoice with Your Beatitude and with all the Albanian people in this spiritual renewal. At the same time, it is with gratitude to Almighty God that I reflect on your own service to your country and on your personal contribution to fostering fraternal relations with the Catholic Church. Be assured that we, for our part, will do all that we can to offer a common witness of brotherhood and peace, and to pursue with you a renewed commitment to the unity of our Churches in obedience to the New Commandment of our Lord.

Your Beatitude, it is in this spirit of communion that I am pleased to welcome you to the city of the Apostles Peter and Paul.


  1. “we would do well to emphasize the elements of faith which our Churches share: a common profession of the Nicene–Constantinopolitan creed; a common baptism for the remission of sins and for incorporation into Christ and the Church; the legacy of the first Ecumenical Councils; the real if imperfect communion which we already share”.

    If Benedict repeats this often enough, he may really start to believe it. Let’s pray that our hierarchs remember Mark of Ephesus and keep in mind that they are in dialogue with a dualist, semi-pagan religion.

  2. I think Benedict has simply understood the truth that we have.

    Orthodox bishops, with very few exceptions (Anastasios being one) have no stomach for anything but entrenching the status quo.

    Our hierarchs do not want dialogue with anyone, for any reason (see how eagerly they ‘dialogue’ with their flock?), they don’t want confrontation, and they definitely don’t want to spread the Gospel to anywhere but their own dying parishes.

    Hostility to Christian principles is on the rise. The Catholic bishops know this. Protestant leaders know this (the Manhattan Declaration is good evidence), but Orthodox ‘leaders’ are, by and large, clueless and uninterested.

    Benedict will continue to offer the olive branch, in whatever form, but he’s moved on. And so have his bishops.

    An interesting comparison which I think we will see in greater and greater contrast over the coming months as the culture wars heat up.

  3. John: I fear that some of our bishops (EP, Albanian, some Serb, some Greek, but definitely not Russian and Bulgarian, see union with Rome as a way to leverage ttheir precarious political (and I mean political in the bad Church sense) posItions to the point of compromising essential theology for political expediency. The theological dialogue has already accepted a Roman assertion that filioque does not mean “principal” cause and thatv the dispute is essentially semantic. Even Kalliston Ware allude to the same thing in his The Orthodox Church. Have any of our representatives to the dialogue said “then say it our way”? Moreover, have any of our representatives ever read or even heard of Lumen Gentium? The ignorance of what Rome is all about is mind boggling.

    • “John: I fear that some of our bishops (EP, Albanian, some Serb, some Greek, but definitely not Russian and Bulgarian, see union with Rome as a way to leverage ttheir precarious political (and I mean political in the bad Church sense) posItions to the point of compromising essential theology for political expediency.”

      Yes, because that has worked sooooo well every time it is tried.

      As the princess said “better my brother’s empire perish than the purity of the Orthodox Faith.”

  4. George Michalopulos :

    Speaking for myself, I don’t think the issue is one of union with Rome. As +Hilarion Alfeyev has stated, what is needed is strategic cooperation, not theological unanimity. In my opinion, union is a red herring. More to the point, How can we unite with Rome when we Orthodox won’t unite in North America? Does this lack of love not fly in the face of our Lord’s exhortation that we “be one, as my Father and I are one”?

    Leaving aside the question of Rome and turning instead to Orthodoxy, how can we talk about union at the Chalice when our bishops don’t even agree on some pretty powerful kerygtmatic points that are the result of our love? I’m talking about sanctity of life issues but also canonical issues like divorce and remarriage, acceptance of converts, membership in secret societies, etc? We can see how the recent Climategate revelations have laid waste to the politically correct “truths” that forced some to promote a new theology recently. Would we not be drinking condemnation unto ourselves if we acquiesce to this nonsense?

    Perhaps we should instead repent of our pride, humble ourselves, honestly inquire into what the Church teaches on certain subjects, try as much as humanly possible to conform ourselves to said teachings, and then –and only then–can we talk about unity. And our bishops must lead the way in repentance. And I mean ALL bishops.

    • Your post brought this to mind from almost three years ago:

      We trivialize our disunity but calling it simply a disunity of jurisdictions or an administrative division — as though the division we sustain is not a matter of the heart or essence or faith of the Orthodox Church. Jurisdiction and administration ring in our ears as merely external and relatively unimportant divisions, and so the tragedy of our division is belittled. As though our present divisions are merely the unfortunate turns of history, which we must benignly endure until they naturally go away. I beg to differ from such an appraisal. Such tamed and pacified descriptions of Orthodox disunity in America are untrue, inconsistent with Orthodox theology, mask the very serious nature and consequences of our present division, and steal the sense of urgency that the Spirit of God births in the hearts of the faithful in the face of disunity.

      Source: Orthodox Reunion: Overcoming the Curse of Jurisdictionalism in America by Fr. Josiah Trenham. Dec 16, 2006

    • From the same source:

      And who can blame someone for not wanting to join a divided family? A family where all the uncles almost never meet together, and rarely speak? Imagine the “Smith” family for a moment. Would you not consider it a tragic state of affairs if a family made up of parents, children and grandchildren, while all living in the same city, routinely met together only in select and separated groups? If certain members of the family studiously drove right by the homes of their brothers and sisters and never stopped in, communicated, or regularly gathered? Who would want anything to do with such a family?

  5. Michael Bauman :

    George, the Church has never had all bishops on board for anything. That has always been the basis for the appeal of and to Rome. We need someone to make up our mind for us.

    • Maybe that is what has kept us Orthodox all these centuries — the fact that they can’t make up their mind means they can’t think clearly enough to innovate — it may be a blessing in disguise.

      • Nick, it seems contrary to the teachings of Jesus that disunity has kept the Orthodox truly Orthodox for all these centuries, when He prayed that we might all be one even as He and the Father are one. Could it not be that we have subverted this by straining at gnats and swallowing camels, avoiding the weightier matters of the law?

        Orthodoxy has been full of innovation – we just don’t call it that because we need it as a pejorative for Rome. Monasticism was an innovation. Most of the fasts of the Church were innovations. Hesychasm was an innovation. None of these are of Apostolic origin. The multi-jurisdictionalism of the American (or Western European for that matter) Church is certainly an innovation that we countenance without suggesting that those who live in and support such a state of affairs have rejected Orthodoxy. For that matter, we openly reject or ignore loads of the canons of the Ecumenical Councils. Isn’t that innovation, too?

        Mostly we reject those innovations of Rome that we perceive to be the best excuses to avoid union with Rome. We throw around the name of St Mark of Ephesus like a talisman, warding off any consideration that this isn’t the 15th century.

        I am sure I will be strung up as a heretic for quoting from that other heretic C.S. Lewis in his introduction to an Anglican translation of On the Incarnation (which many Orthodox have no doubt surreptitiously read in the reprint from SVS Press):

        Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes…Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united — united with each other and against earlier and later ages — by a great mass of common assumptions.

        I know that to suggest that reunion means anything other than the Papacy and one billion Catholics unconditionally surrendering to the disorganised and fratricidal (but oh so Green) Orthodox Church, rejecting every development of theology and praxis since the 11th century while wholeheartedly embracing all of ours, will bring out blessing crosses, holy water, and shrieks of “Branch theory! branch theory!” Frankly, I think the serious consideration of Jesus’ prayer may need to be balanced against fretting over theories who is in and out of the Church based on who was on the right side of the Great Schism.

        • David: You will not “be strung up as a heretic” but perhaps a little reflection might be in order. While it is certainly true that the Lord prayed that we might all be one even as He and the Father are one, unity for the sake of unity is not the same as unity in faith. Recall the words of Paul: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith” [Ephesians 4:11-13]. By this, we are not “straining at gnats and swallowing camels, avoiding the weightier matters of the law”. We are rather striving for “unity of the faith”.

          As far as “innovations” go, you are mistaken. Monasticism is not an innovation. It finds its bedrock in the Old Testament tradition of the “Nazrite vow”. [See generally Numbers 6 and 1st Kingdoms 1:11]. Also consider the life of the one “crying in the wilderness. Can one serious suggest that the Baptist was not like one who is a monastic. Although specific fasting days have been developed by the Church, fasting is not an innovation. It was practiced in the Old Testament and even by the Lord Himself after Epiphany. Hesychasm not only has an Apostolic origin [e.g. the events of the Transfiguration], it is also pre-Apostolic. Witness Ezikiel’s vision of Lord’s glory. Although it is commonly thought that the doctrine was developed during Palamas’ time, it was even discussed by Basil the Great.

          The multi-jurisdictionalism within the “diaspora” is a regretable innovation but only of “administration” and not of “faith”.

          “Mostly we reject those innovations of Rome that we perceive to be the best excuses to avoid union with Rome”. Here you are way off base. Filioque, Created Grace, Divine Simplicity, Co-Mediatrix, Immaculate Conception, Assumption before repose, warehouse of merit and indulgences, Purgatory, etc., etc., etc. are not rejected as excuses to avoid untion. They are heresies of the worst sort. They turn Christianity on its head. The Filioque subordinates the Holy Spirit, creates a duality rather than a Trinity and is dualistic Sabellianism. The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity is akin to saying that we were created by a paramecium. Darwin’s theory of evolution (to which I do not subscribe) makes more sense than the Roman Divine Simplicity.

          Theology may change among those professing to be theologians during their fits of speculative philosopy and praxis may change as it has sometimes from sheer laziness (such as the silent anaphora), but Truths regarding the Faith do not change. To quote another heretic, Einstein, “God does not play dice with the universe” to which the excursus might be added that He also does not practice transmutational alchemy with regard to Himself nor His eternal Truths.

          • Nick: Since the ministry gifts were given until we all come to the unity of the faith, this raises some interesting points. It follows then that during the Apostolic period, there was not unity of the faith. Do we assume then that St Paul was saying these gift were giving so that eventually everyone might be in communion with each other and that once the whole church is in communion with each other, there will not longer be apostles, prophets, evangelistic, pastors and teachers? Or he is saying that the true unity of the faith is something that we would be striving for even if we were under the authority of the same apostles or bishops? Also, is the unity of the faith spoken of by St Paul in Ephesians tied directly to the desires expressed in Jesus’ prayer? And is striving for the unity of the faith compatible with standing on our island of Orthodox theology and saying, “We have the unity of the faith; come over here if you want. We may not agree on killing babies or the sanctity of the family, but you won’t find created grace or puratory. And leave your Filioque over there.”

            As far as “innovations” go, you are mistaken.

            We can look to Biblical types as justification for anything. I never said monasticism is wrong and it is not surprising that if it is right there is a Biblical basis for the practice. That doesn’t change the fact that for a long time there was not monasticism in the Church and then there was. I never said fasting was an innovation. The evidence is that the Church fasted two days a week from the beginning. Great Lent came along much later. The other fasts even later. The Apostles’ Fast has only been around for a few centuries. The idea that the Church would spent more time fasting than eating normally is a far cry from fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays. How you get from Ezekiel throught the Transfiguration to Hesychasm is beyond me.

            The multi-jurisdictionalism within the “diaspora” is a regretable innovation but only of “administration” and not of “faith”.

            Multi-jurisdictionalism is enough of “faith” that it has prevented Orthodox from being in communion with each other. Seems then that is it an innovation that has broken the unity of the faith.

            They are heresies of the worst sort. They turn Christianity on its head.

            Are all the heresies of Rome of the worst sort and turn Christianity on its head? There are a lot of Orthdox and Catholics that see the Filioque as a resolvable problem. If we see its development within a historical context, we can recognise that the Latins were not attempting to subordinate the Holy Spirit or create a Duality and would absolutely deny such a thing, and that this is in no what borne out in the theology of the West. The Romas Church teaches explicitly that “To believe in the Holy Spirit is to profess that the Holy Spirit is one of the persons of the Holy Trinity, consubstantial with the Father and the Son: ‘with the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church par. 685) Since you have noted that God does not practice transmutational alchemy with regard to Himself, Roman doctrine cannot create a duality in the Godhead. God is Who He is. The Catholics confess that He is consubstantial Trinity. I do find it interesting that when I was a Reformed Protestant, following certain theologians I taught that the rejection of the Filioque by the Othodox Church subordinates the Holy Spirit and implies Sabellianism.

            I have never seen Divine Simplicity as saying we were created by a paramecium. I understand it as simply the idea that there is no distiction of attributes within God – that He simply is and that while we may discuss different aspects of His nature or character, these are constructs to assist our limited ability to grasp Him. To me, this seems very compatible with Orthodox apophatic theology.

            I don’t see anything insurmountable in Created Grace, the Theotokos as Co-Mediatrix, the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, Purgatory, etc. I don’t believe in any of them, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be explained in different ways (I think of the Co-Mediatrix idea here) or fit within those things that are not essentials and upon which we can agree to disagree with the Catholics.

            You are correct: Truths regarding the Faith do not change. However the limited way in which we all see through a glass darkly may cause us to understand some of the nuances of those Truths differently. Or as Orthodox, I suppose we are supposed to say to the Papists that we all see through a glass darkly, but our glass is a whole lot cleaner and not quite as dark as yours, because we are, after all, the True Church.

  6. Isaac Crabtree :

    The jurisdictional disunity is a tragedy, but has anyone ever actually looked over the fence for very long? Roman Catholics may be administratively “one” but that seems to be about it– so many rites, so many orders, so many spiritualities, and so many theological positions and opinions! Only this external unity is required (bending the knee Vaticanward), and you can be “Catholic”– whether you’re William F. Buckley or Nancy Pelosi; whether you’re a dyed in the wool member of SSPX or an uber-zealot for Vatican 2 and “mariachi masses.” I’ll pass on this kind of “unity.”

    Let’s be thankful for what we’ve got– whether it be traditional old-world monastic Bishops like in ROCOR, worldly politician bishops like in the GOA, or down-home Americanist Bishops like in the OCA (yes I’m stereotyping and doing so light-heartedly, so take it that way… I’ve been a parishioner in all three jurisdictions and love them all). It just so happens that we Americans, so used to being the “center” of everything, still find ourselves in the geographical and spiritual “backwaters” of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church… the “mission field” if ever there were one. Let’s be thankful we don’t have Turks and Communists breathing down our necks at every turn, and that somehow in our poverty and weakness God brought us into His Church.

    We’re never going to “fix” or “save” the Church (that is entirely in God’s hands and He is faithful to His promise), but if we let it, the Church will fix and save us.

    • Isaac, isn’t it stretching a bit to suggest that the unity of the Roman Church is as false as the disunity of the Orthodox Church?

      We may have declared one particular Eucharistic rite from written by one particular 4th century bishop to be the Holy Tradition (except when we use the other one), but there are many spiritualities and theological positions and opinions in Orthodoxy. Otherwise we wouldn’t have an Ecumenical Patriarch who thinks abortion is optional but anthropogenic global warming is on par with the Gospel or Metropolitans not so fussed about gay marriage. After all, you can be “Orthodox” whether you are Rod Dreher or Olympia Snowe.

      I suppose it is a good thing we don’t find ourselves in the geographical and spiritual center of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church, where Greece is the abortion capital of Europe and Serbian priests bless genocidal armies carrying out ethnic cleansing (or the burning of Protestant churches and attacking Protestant pastors among the ethnic Hungarians of Vojvodina, as has happened to friends of my parents). Yes, I’d say the mission field is the place to be.

      I think Orthodoxy has a lot of cleaning up of our own mess to do before we start pointing fingers across the Tiber.

  7. George Michalopulos :

    Isaac, I don’t want to give offense, but I’m with David on this one. Yes, I realize the liturgical mess that is Roman Catholicism. As the father of two sons who received Catholic parochial education, I’ve had to endure more than a few Novus Ordo masses. I’m fully aware of the different vicariates, denominations, orders, prelatures, apostolates, etc. within the Roman church. And of course, the cacaphony that is Protestantism is truly a sight to behold (not).

    As an Orthodox Christian, one who was and is taught that the full expression of the Christian Faith resides within our Church, I can’t point fingers at other denominations when our own peccadilloes are far worse. Given that we profess to have the “fullness” of the Truth, our own judgment will be far more severe. Let me explain by giving one example that is perhaps emblematic of the condemnation that we Orthodox may bring to ourselves, and this involves the Eucharist:

    I once asked a GOA priest after a Clergy-Laity Congress if there was any talk of unity. His answer (and I paraphrase here)? “No, they (AOCNA, OCA, etc.) only want unity because we’re rich and powerful. They’ve got nothing we want or need. As long as we got Eucharistic unity, that’s enough.”

    Let’s parse this: we’ll share the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but we won’t share the real estate.


    Great amount of publicity was given not only in Italy but also in Albania on the Meeting between the Archbishop of Tirana Anastasios and Pope Benedict XVI on the 4th of December.

    Archbishop Anastasios stated that “a new approach between Christians is essential, as well as theological discussions and pacification among them which is a duty of all church leaders”. He also characterized the event being of historical importance.

  9. David: I will address most of your issues tomorrow when I have access to other than a BlackBerry. But I did want to respond to Divine Simplicity now. I have pondered the problem for some time. I must admit that it is extremely seductive and has some level of superficial appeal. I don’t know how versed you are in classical philosophy, but I will assume you have a working knowledge in the same. The doctrine derives via Aquinas from Aristotles’ Metaphysics. It says that the Prime Mover (Aristotle’s equivalent of God) in essence is the same as his attributes. In other words, God cannot have the attribute of being good. His very essence is goodness. He cannot be merciful because His very essence is mercy. On and on and on. Under the doctrine, because He has no parts,essence equals goodness equals mercy equals all other things we might otherwise call attributes. Apart from the philosophical problem of whether there is equivalency here, which I will discuss tomorrow, let me pose a problem no one to my knowledge has posed in this discussion. Since God is also creator, His essence must be creation. Therefore His essence constantly requires Him to create. Since His existence is infinite, He is infinitely creating an infinite number of universes. Since He is also an incarnator His essence always causes Him to incarnate. He incarnates to save us from our fall. Because He infinitely creates and incarnates because of our fall, we always fall in every universe He has created. What are the implications for free will if we always fall? What kind of a paramecium always creates an infinite number of the same thing? Is this our God? And if it not, then. who is the Roman one?

    • Michael Bauman :

      Our free will is derived, in part, from the understanding that in God there is no necessity. He did not create because He ‘had’ to. He creates because He wants to. There need not be any other creation fallen or not.

      Love is a gift of self, it cannot be a requirement, i.e, God has to love us, He has no choice. He loves us because He chose to create us out of love. Not to love us would violate the nature of our creation and therefore our existtence. We are creatures contingent upon the love of God.

      David, you seem to hold the idea that the differences between us and the RCC are nothing but philosphical dilemmas that can be worked out by people of good will if we want to. I strongly disagree. The essence of our differences is rooted deeply in who we are as human beings and the nature of our communion with our Creator. Going further, it is not a stretch to see that many of the RCC dogmatic beliefs violate the gift of the Incarnation pushing God back into His universe and leaving the Pope to run things for Him ‘down here’. Such beliefs paved the way for the defacto dualism that infects so much of modern thought and belief, including the belief in intellectual egalitarinism concerning the nature of God and man.

      We simply don’t have the same Christology as the RCC, the same ecclesiology or the same anthropology either. It is impossible for us both to be right. If we accept Jesus’ promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church, we must also understand that we cannot both be wrong unless you prefer the dualistic ‘invisible Church’ postulated by many as a way to have their cake and eat it too.

      Dualism in any form is heresy, but that does not mean you are a heretic as we are all tempted by the heretical mind. Heresy is tempting because it solves so many dilemmas we’d rather not actually face about our communion with the living God. Heresy is tempting because we are all tempted to find solutions that are within our control rather than living in the dynamic tension of the uncreated being united with us and through us with the rest of His creation.

      • Michael, I do not believe that all of the differences between us and the Roman Church are philosophical dilemmas. I do believe that a lot of the differences are either a) philosophical dilemmas, or b) dilemmas of our own making that are not of the essentials but are entrenched in centuries of antagonism that is rooted in theological, personal, political and other causes that cannot be easily separated, nor ignored with the cavilier attiude of “Speak to the hand, ’cause the True Church ain’t listenin'”.

        This is true because there were and are sinful men on both sides, whether they were born sinners in the West or became sinners in the East. We just rest in the assurance that more of our sinners were guided by the Holy Spirit and we got it right. After all somebody has to be right, because there can only be one side that is the True Church.

        I have to wonder what would have happened if there hadn’t been the tiff over the Filioque, given that the East didn’t get really riled up over the developments in the West until that nasty incident in 1054. The Latin and Greek segments of the Church had been drifting in different theological and liturgical directions long before that. I dare to suggest that if the bishop of Rome hadn’t gotten a bit too high and mighty (though his predecessors in St Peter’s chair had exhibited pretensions to supremacy for at least eight centuries prior) and demanded uniformity, other than a few theologians, the East wouldn’t have cared less – at least not cared enough to have broken communion. Even then, there wasn’t a perfect fracture of communion between all bishops under Rome and all bishops under the other four patriarchies. This, too, took time to develop. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that we can de-sanctify every saint who lived after 1054.

        I’m not sure how the non-prevailing gates of hell imagery applies here, but I’m always a bit leary of using that passage, since it is in the context of the declaration of the Petrine primacy, even if Peter’s successors are no longer primus inter pares, but rather primus ex ecclesia.

        I disagree with your assertion that we do not have the same Christology as the Romans. We both adhere not only to the Christology of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, but also the to decrees of the Ecumenical Councils. Yes, we do have different ecclesiology and anthropology. With regard to anthropology it could be said that the Ecumenical Patriarch does not place the same value on unborn human life as the dastardly arrogant Roman Pontiff. That’s different anthopology on a very real level with very real consequences. But fortunately our ecclesiology lets us say our Green Patriarch is off his rocker, whereas all the papists are obliged to agree with their Vicar of Christ.

        It’s going to be a very interesting Judgement Day when Jesus says, “You may have let the unborn die, you may have blessed genocidal armies, you may have encouraged earth-worship, but you got it right on created grace and Divine simplicity, and by golly you saw right through that Filioque error, so come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

        • Michael Bauman :

          David, correct theology does not guarantee salvation, but incorrect theology can and has led many away from Christ: to wit, the institution of the Papacy denies the reality of the Incarnation by requiring the Pope to be between us and Jesus. That is a major difference in our Christology. (BTW since the Church is the Body of Christ, your agreement that we have a different ecclesiology means that we also have a different Christology).

          We also have a different soteriology as evidenced in part by the idea of created grace vs. divine energies. The list goes on and on and just keeps getting longer.

          My approach is simply to have cordial relations and leave the whole question of unity up to Jesus when he comes again. The rest is futile, unnecessary and probably detrimental for all of us.

          • the institution of the Papacy denies the reality of the Incarnation by requiring the Pope to be between us and Jesus.

            It’s statements like this that make me wish AOI had a discussion forum. In Orthodoxy are priests understood as acting in persona Christi?

  10. David: I forgot one other point. How ineffable and unknowable is He if His Vicar knows He is Divinely Simple? Arrogance is the principal heresy of his Pontificus Maximus.

    • And abject arrogance is the principal sin many imperious, nominally Orthodox, bishops share in spades with that particular heretic.

      Setting aside the theological dimension of the discussion, it would appear that David’s cautionary observation is very well-taken:

      It’s going to be a very interesting Judgement Day when Jesus says, “You may have let the unborn die, you may have blessed genocidal armies, you may have encouraged earth-worship, but you got it right on created grace and Divine simplicity, and by golly you saw right through that Filioque error, so come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

  11. David, this is a reply to the balance of your post:

    With regard to Ephesians note that it says of the purpose of the ministry gifts: “for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith”. Our edification comes from different sources in different ways. That in no way imparts that “during the Apostolic period, there was not unity of the faith”. People, then and now, learn of the faith, come to the faith and grow in the faith and the understanding of it. That is not a prescription for unity when there are fundamental core disagreements. If it were, then Paul’s and others’ warnings against false teachers would have been superflous and meaningless.

    Monastasim and fasting are pietistic acts — not doctrinal errors. I have been speaking of core doctrinal difference and innovations.

    How I get from Ezekiel to the Transfiguration to Hesychasm is easy. Ezekiel had a vision of God’s energies. This was not novel in Judaism. In the Transfiguration, the three Apostles had a vision of God’s energies. In Hesychasm, one hopes through “stillness” per Palamas of experiences the same kind of vision.

    When you say that “multi-jurisdictionalism is enough of ‘faith’ that it has prevented Orthodox from being in communion with each other. Seems then that is it an innovation that has broken the unity of the faith”, let me give you an example. We (the former Free Serbian Orthodox Church) was out of communion with the Serbian Patriarchate from 1963-1992 because of political reasons. Reconciliation was achieved merely by the act of concelebrating the Liturgy. Patriarch Paul himself said that although we were in schism and out of communion, during the whole time he acknowledged that we always shared the same faith. This was a disciplinary and not a doctrinal matter.

    With regard to the Filioque, there can be only one resolution. Either the single or dual procession. Let’s put philosophy and philosophistry aside. Jesus Christ said in John that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. He prounounced a single procession. What he says has more weight that what 1,000 times a 1,000 Bishops of Rome say. Adding the Filioque, simply stated, is tantamount to calling Christ a liar. That I will never do.

    Anyway, as always, we Orthodox can disagree on Rome and still be Orthodox. Sorry I can’t say the same for Rome.

  12. I see now how you get from Ezekiel through the Transfiguration to Hesychasm. The problem I have with this is that Ezekiel’s (or Isaiah’s or any of the OT Prophet’s) visions are very much thrust upon them. There is no indication that there was any stillness involved. nor any special postures or breathing patterns or repeating of the Jesus Prayer. This is patently obvious in the Transfiguration. The three Apostles were racing around trying to build tabernacles – hardly working up hesychastic stillness. Hesychasm is an attempt to manufacture – to reproduce in the lab almost – conditions where God will be revealed in a supernatural way. At times it is hair’s breadth away from Buddhism on the one hand and Pentecostalism on the other. I think it is quite innovative, it is just that (perhaps due in some degree to the Platonic language used to defend it and it’s opposition to Aristotelian Thomism) it won the day in the 14th century and has been incorporated into the tradition of the Orthodox Church.

    As for the Filioque, Jesus did say “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” So Jesus says He sent the Holy Spirit. I believe in single procession, because I think it is ontologically correct. A Catholic or his bishop in Rome may believe in double procession because it is economically correct. (They could even argue that economic procession cannot be separated from ontological procession and therefore say that John 16:7 mandates double procession, though I would disagree with them.) Neither side calls Christ a liar. They understand what He said in different ways.

  13. Greg: I think it extreme to suggest that the papacy denies the incarnation but it does give the Pope in an exalted role as a co-mediator by being the gate keeper of merits which is the logical implication of indulgence. The Romans, it must be admitted, today have a slightly different spin, but it still is spin. It is this co-mediator role that has necessitated the development of the doctrine that the Theotokos is a co-mediatrix as well. Can’t exalt the Pope above the Motheer of God, even in their twisted theology.

    On your Christi in persona question, you will often find that metaphor in Orthodox writings. However it is totally erroneous. The anaphora is a collective prayer always in the plural, except in the Roman canon since the 10th century. The priest does not represent Christ. He represents us. In fact, because of that, while he recites the anaphora audibly in my parrish, I recite it myself in a very low voice to myself and God the Father to whom it is directed.

    • I don’t think it is contradictory to say that priest represents Christ to us even as he represents us to God. He represents Christ to us when he blesses us. He represents Christ to us when he hears our confession. He also represents Christ in the sense that he represents the bishop as the bishop represents Christ as an under-shepherd under the authority of the Chief Shepherd.

    • Nick: On your Christi in persona question, you will often find that metaphor in Orthodox writings. However it is totally erroneous.

      David: I don’t think it is contradictory to say that priest represents Christ to us even as he represents us to God.

      😕 Is there a difinitive statement on the role of the priest in relation to Christ?

  14. David: Be careful here. He, meaning the priest, does not bless us. He always says, for example in the benediction in the Liturgy, “may he who …” He always asks God to bless us. He dies not represent Christ in confession. He serves as a witness with us in our confession to God. Roman theology since the middle ages views the priest as the consecrator of the bread and wine by uttering the words of institution which is why the Roman canon has a weak or nonexistent epiclesis whereas the Orthodox liturgies always have a most explicit epiclesis to highlight that the Holy Spirit is the consecrator.

    Greg: There is a definitive statement. It is careful reading of the Liturgy including the fact that the plural does not mean the royal “we”.

    • I forgot one more thing. In the Roman confession the priest can celebrate the eucharist alone. In Orthodoxy the priest cannot celebrate the eucharist without the presence (participation) of the royal priesthood (the laity). It is the perfect meaning of synergy.

      • You are correct. It takes one to celebrate a Roman Eucharist and two to celebrate an Orthodox Eucharist.

        This still does not refute the concept of the priest representing Christ to the laity. If anything it strengthens the idea, because there is a time (celebrating the Eucharist alone) when the Roman priest represents Christ to no one physically present at the time, whereas the Orthodox priest always represents Christ to at least one Reader.

        In representing Christ in making the bloodless sacrifice, both the Orthodox and Roman priest pray in the first person plural. The plural does not mean the royal “we” in either case. The Church acts together in the offering, but it is through one man standing at the altar.

    • I apologise for using common parlance rather than technical language. You are correct, the priest asks God to bless us. The priest gives the blessing. We always sing at the end of the Liturgy, “Father, give the blessing!” We hold out our hands and petition, “Father, bless!” However, this giving of blessing, or asking God to bless us, is true in Catholicism, and for that matter in the benediction given in my old Presbyterian Church, where the pastor used the Aaronic blessing, “May the Lord bless you and keep you…”

      The Orthodox priest is more explicit about representing Christ, even in the way he holds his hand when giving us the blessing. He is even more explicit about representing Christ at the end of the Liturgy, when he says, “May Christ our true God, through the prayers…” because the Catholic priest simply says, “May almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

      The Orthodox priest represents Christ in confession when he places the epitrachelion over the head of the penitent. He represents Christ when he announces God’s absolution of the repentant. (The Roman priest also does the same thing, BTW.) This is because Jesus said to the Holy Apostles, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” The Apostles represented Christ, the bishops are successor representatives of Christ and the priests are the representatives of the bishops. This isn’t medieval Romish error. This is the Holy Scriptures.

      As for who (or Who) is the consecrator of the bread and wine, this is really trying to put too fine a point on it. The Roman priest says, “Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” This is less elaborate than the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, but it is the petitioning of the work of the Holy Spirit. We may spend an extra paragraph elaborating upon this, but the Holy Spirit doesn’t need all the added information to do His work. What is more important in the Lirtugy, the greater higlighting of the work of the Holy Spirit, or the actual work of the Holy Spirit in transforming the gifts?

      Is the priest the consecrator? Try to have a Divine Liturgy without a priest or bishop. The priest is the appointed representative of the bishop, ordained by God to pray over the bread and wine. He is authorised to recount the words of institution in which both the Roman priest and the Orthodox priest say, “He took…broke…gave thanks…gave to His disciples and said…”

      You have not demonstrated any way in which the Roman priest acts any differently from the Orthodox priest.

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