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class="post-47 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-blog-archive tag-ecumenical tag-ecumenicism entry">

Ecumenicism: The Moral Imperative Based on the Priestly Prayer of Jesus

Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one (John 17:11).

In just a few short weeks most of the Eastern Churches (and Western Churches as well) will be reading this passage from St. John’s Gospel during Holy Week. Are we one, are we in unity, are we responding to the Fathers embrace prayed for by His Divine Son? The answer is blatantly: No! Not to respond to God’s Will is being in a state of sin: thus disunity is sinful.

Jesus prayed that we be ‘kept in the Fathers name and be one’ but we are free to reject the Father. Why? Because we are created with ‘free will’. Thus we are free to sin. But we are also free to work toward conforming our will to His Will. Brokenness in the world, the evils around us, the disunity among the communities of Christians are due to choices made by us individually and collectively by our Churches, ecclesial communities and religious establishments.

There is no doubt that Ecumenism in some Orthodox circles is anathema. But if we take serious Our Lord’s prayer to that we be one then Ecumenism is not an option it is a requirement. However ecumenism, must be based on the Orthodox teachings of Christ and not any heterodox models. It behooves us then to be Orthodox ecumenists.

As Christ gave us a path to healing by his death on the Cross and triumph over sin and death at His Resurrection, so too we are going to have to carry our ecumenical cross to enter the path of healing disunity.

In weakness and brokenness love can emerge. The brokenness in the world, often a source of despair, can be transformed into an opportunity to empty ourselves (kenosis) from our own passions of pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth and put on Christ – an emptying that reaches fulfillment in love towards God and neighbor and in communion with one another. As Orthodox what can we do? We can: come to know one another, not only others who call themselves Christian, but all of mankind, as children of God; we can know and respect (neither condoning nor disparaging) our various ecclesial traditions, help one another and those around in need out of the common love of God, and arduously pray, proclaim and communicate our desire for unity in faith and communion in Christ. Mot of all we must fully humbly witness our commitment to Christ and the teachings (Orthodox) He gave us. As Orthodox Christians we know and follow the words of Jesus: “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9) and “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved…no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 10:9a, 14:6b ). The way to the Father is Jesus, His mystical body, enlivened by the Holy Spirit: the Orthodox Church.

An excellent example of what can be done is the inter-cooperation of religious communities, politicians and scientists to protect, conserve and care for our God created earth and it’s environment. A recent conference in February 2008 sponsored by the Huffington Ecumenical Institute at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles highlighted the work of the Religion, Science and Environment Symposia (RSES), to bring about active change in the environment. Leadership was originally provided by His Holiness of Blessed Memory Pope John Paul II (and now Pope Benedict XVI) and His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. As noted by Fr. Deacon John Chryssavgis, (Ecumenical Patriarchate) in his Conference address, lack of caring for the environment “is a sin”, he went on: “The crisis that we are facing is not primarily ecological, it has more to do with spirituality and icons. The way we imagine the world is an inhumane way to see it … we are not seeing the world as it really is — a gift from God.” Because of these ecumenical efforts significant changes have already taken place environmentally challenged countries. As an example: an oppositional and hostile Albanian government did a 180° turn around in cleaning a extremely toxic community following world pressure after the RSES investigative report. We as Orthodox Christians can cooperate on similar and other need projects on our local community level. To make real in our lives of the Spiritual and Corporal Works of mercy is something all can do now until full unity of understanding of Christ’s teachings are reached so eventually all can partake of His Eucharist. We can pray to the Holy Spirit to break down the walls that separates us.

The warning of St. Makarios of Egypt rings clear: “Grace does not make a man incapable of sin by forcibly and compulsorily laying hold of his will but, through its presence allows him freedom of choice, so as to make it clear whether the man’s own will inclines to virtue or to evil … for the law looks not to man’s nature but to his free power of choice, which is capable of turning towards either good or evil” (Philokalia III). Let us proclaim among ourselves, our fellow Christians, and most importantly our hierarchs the sin of evil disunion and the good ‘as one’ of returning the Fathers embrace in full unity with His Son, Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.


Palmer, G.E.H., Sherrard, P., & Ware, K. (eds). (1986). The Philokalia: The Complete Text compiled by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth (Vol. 3). Winchester, MA: Faber and Faber.

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class="post-45 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-blog-archive tag-armenian-orthodox tag-culture tag-guroian tag-history tag-orthodox-christian-laity tag-theology tag-unity tag-youth entry">

Guroian on ‘Youth, Unity and Orthodoxy in America’

Dr. Vigen Guroian delivered a talk on “Youth, Unity and Orthodoxy in America” at the 20th Anniversary Annual Meeting of Orthodox Christian Laity in Glenview, Illinois, in November. The theme of the OCL conference: “The Need for a Great and Holy Council.”

Here’s Dr. Guroian (an advisor to AOI) on Orthodox youth:

The college or university is a synecdoche — a metaphor – representing in microcosm the diverseness and pluralism of America. Likewise, the Orthodox students who arrive at our colleges and universities represent a microcosm of the entire Orthodox presence in America in all of its variety. They come to college for many reasons, with little thought, however, about joining in the great experiment of Pan-Orthodoxy and church unity.

Unlike their immigrants forebears who came to America, these young people do not bring to college all of the institutional paraphernalia of their churches. They do carry, however, an Orthodox identity that they feel a need to share and explain to others. Ethnic or jurisdictional belonging does not inhibit them. They act out of a sense of pluralism and voluntarism that is also distinctively American. They voluntarily join together as Americans to form not a Greek Christian fellowship or a Ukrainian Christian fellowship but an Orthodox Christian Student Fellowship.

How did they get that idea? I don’t think we taught it to them in our parishes. Rather, they learned it from the culture, from the presence of all of us in this American culture. They read it out of the culture as Americans. I cannot stress this enough because this is also a clue to the future of Orthodoxy in North America.

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class="post-44 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-blog-archive tag-byzantium tag-documentary tag-history tag-media tag-russian-orthodox tag-vselevod-chaplin entry">

The Real Byzantium?

In late January, Russian television showed “The Fall of an Empire: The Lessons of Byzantium,” a film by Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov. The film has sparked a controversy in Russia about the role that the West played in the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, whether modern Russia faces similar dangers, and whether the Russian Orthodox Church could help prevent a similar collapse.

The Moscow Times published two opposing views on the documentary today. Mark Urnov, dean of the political science department at the Higher School of Economics, had this to say:

This is not a historical film but a mythological one. It appeals to a myth deeply rooted in the consciousness of many Russians — one that combines the bold ideas of Moscow as a “Third Rome,” the greatness of the 18th- and 19th-century Russian Empire and the Communist fairy tale of a flourishing Soviet superpower that was destroyed by insidious and subversive liberals.

The film uses the Byzantine model to advance another myth — that all of Russia’s problems today are rooted in confrontations dating back to ancient times. These include Russia’s eternal battle with the West, which many conservatives believe harbored an irrational hatred for Russia “on a genetic level.” Other clashes included the Russian Orthodox Church vs. Catholicism and individualism vs. the state.

Fr. Vselevod Chaplin, vice chairman of the department of external church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, countered with this:

A fresh look at Byzantium — an empire despised by both Western and Soviet ideologues — presents us with an excellent opportunity to talk about today’s Russia. For the first time, the average television viewer heard that the Eastern Roman Empire was neither an “evil empire” nor a center of dark obscurantism and superfluous luxury, but the largest civilization of its time and one that has something to offer modern Russia.

It is little wonder, then, that the film upset those who have been trying to convince us that the sun rises not in the East but in the West. It is surprising that some critics have not bothered to discuss the film’s production quality or the facts and ideas it portrays, but have simply lashed out at the very idea of “rehabilitating” Byzantium and the “Byzantine spirit” in Russia. Their arguments are weak. “The filmmakers are trying to take us back to the Middle Ages,” they say.

Read the full exchange here.

The Pravoslie Web site published the script from the documentary here.

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class="post-43 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-blog-archive tag-economics tag-history tag-morality tag-russian-orthodox tag-social-justice tag-solovyov tag-theology entry">

Solovyov on Economic Morality

Towards the end of his life, the 19th century Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov published his “On the Justification of the Good: An Essay on Moral Philosophy” (1897). In this book, wrote historian Paul Valliere, Solovyov abandonded his vision of a “worldwide theocratic order” in favor of the more concrete demands of building a just society. With “Justification of the Good,” Solovyov (1853-1900) presented a general theory of economic and social welfare based on the idea that all human beings have “a right to a dignified existence.”

The following excerpt is from the chapter, “The Economic Question from the Moral Point of View” in Solovyov’s “On the Justification of the Good.” Translated by Nathalie A. Duddington; annotated and edited by Boris Jakim; foreword by David Bentley Hart. Wm. B. Eerdmans (2005).

For the true solution of the so-called ‘social question’ it must in the first place be recognized that economic relations contain no special norm of their own, but are subject to the universal moral norm as a special realm in which they find their application. The triple moral principle which determines our due relation towards God, men, and the material nature is wholly and entirely applicable in the domain of economics. The peculiar character of economic relations gives a special importance to the last member of the moral trinity, namely, the relation to the material nature or earth (in the wide sense of the term). This third relation can have a moral character only if it is not isolated from the first two but is conditioned by them in the normal position.

The realm of economic relations is exhaustively described by the general ideas of production (labor and capital), distribution of property, and exchange of values. Let us consider these fundamental ideas from the moral point of view, beginning with the most fundamental of them — the idea of labor. We know that the first impulse of labor is given by material necessity. But for a man who recognizes above himself the absolutely perfect principle or reality, or the will of God, all necessity is an expression of that will.

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class="post-42 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-blog-archive tag-abortion tag-chris-metropulos tag-crisis-pregnancy tag-crtl tag-frederica-mathewes-green tag-media tag-ocn tag-theology entry">

OCN: Fighting for Life

Here’s a great resource for Orthodox Christian educators. The popular Come Receive the Light programming on the Orthodox Christian Network is archived along with a one-page study guide. These could be used in religious education classes and adult study groups. Those of us with wireless access at churches could listen to the archived program on a laptop and work through the study guide afterward.

In this recent program, host Fr. Chris Metropulos speaks with Frederica Mathewes-Green about the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Orthodox Christian understanding of life, and how Orthodox Christians throughout the centuries have turned belief into practice by reaching out to women and children in need.

Listen here:

Here’s what Brad Borch wrote in the study guide:

In 1973, the US Supreme Court ruled to confirm a woman’s right to an abortion. Since that time, the conflict over this decision has, in many ways, cast a dark pall over our nation. Some have likened the babies lost to abortion to the holocaust of the Jews in World War II. Of course, we know that the Orthodox Church’s stance on abortion is now—and has always been—squarely and unequivocally in defense of the unborn. Let there be no question,our faith views life as God-given, beginning at conception, and the rights of the unborn as equal to that of any other person.

But this is old news, and many of us have grown up with this issue continuously in our faces. We have written letters, marched in protest, donated of our time, talent, and funds, yet the conflict seems to be stalemated, and political solutions appear out of reach. And so we are tired of hearing about the issue. What can we do to reclaim our holy zeal in support of God’s greatest gift?

We need only look at the life of Christ to recognize that the solutions have never been and are not now political. They are personal. Frederica Mathewes-Green has said, “No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice-cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

What kind of cruel trap is this? According to Frederica’s research, the most important factor that will make a woman less likely to choose this tragic measure is support from those close to her. We cannot legislate away pain, fear, and guilt. No law will heal broken relationships, or rebuild shattered lives. As Christians, our mandate is to make these problems—the situations that have produced the grim holocaust of abortion —- our own problems.

Our task is to share in the burdens of “the least of these my brethren.” One important way to make the struggle for life more personal is to get involved in organizations that reach out to women in crisis pregnancies. There are many such ministries, including our own Zoe for Life, the Orthodox ministry for supporting women in this tragic situation.

Just like the woman who faces this awful dilemma, you too have a choice: turn your back on her, seeking only political solutions, or find a way to reach out to her, to make her feel supported and loved, so that she does not fear the burden that a new life brings into the world. This is your choice.

And here’s a link to Zoe for Life, a non-profit Christ-centered support organization which helps women in crisis pregnancy. To encourage women to carry their infants to term, ZOE offers emotional and spiritual support, confidential access to professional agencies, and connection to potential adoptive Orthodox Christian families.

Listen here:

Also listen in on this week’s show as Fr. Chris welcomes Sarah Elisabet Oftedal, Director of the Martha and Mary House, who talks about the social trends and spiritual struggles involved in her crisis pregnancy and counseling ministry.

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