Category Archives: Church History

Attack on Religious Liberty

I’ve linked below to proposed Wisconsin Senate bill 382. If it were to become law, it would eliminate “from the reporting requirement the exception for information obtained through confidential communications.”

While

Current law provides that a member of the clergy is not required to report information relating to suspected or threatened sexual abuse of a child that he or she receives solely through confidential communications made to him or her privately or in a confessional setting if he or she is authorized to hear or is accustomed to hearing such communications and if, under the disciplines, tenets, or traditions of his or her religion, he or she has a duty or is expected to keep those communications secret. The bill eliminates from the reporting requirement the exception for information obtained through confidential communications.

However well-intentioned, this is an unjust infringement on religious liberty and represents an attack on the life of the Church. I would encourage all Wisconsin residents to contact their state legislators and the bills co-sponsors to protest this violation of both the US and Wisconsin constitutions. The bills’ co-sponsors can be found in the attached document.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Source: Wisconsin Legislature: SB382: Bill Text

Turkey’s genocide of Christian Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians

Acton Institute’ John Couretas has an article in the issue of Religion and Liberty about Turkey’s genocide of Christian Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians. Here’s an overview:

In The Thirty-Year Genocide: Turkey’s Destruction of its Christian Minorities 1894-1924 (Harvard University Press, 2019), historians Benny Morris and Dror Ze’evi have produced a new “documentary” history of the Armenian genocide that resulted from sifting through thousands of reports, letters, and diary entries from Western observers, including diplomats, military officers, Christian missionaries working in Turkey, businessmen, and other travelers. In this way, Morris and Ze’evi did an end-around the official scrubbing of the archives, or the sealing off of crucial information, that the Turkish government, they say, has engaged in systematically for decades to obliterate Turkey’s role in genocide. Yet, traces remain. The historians made use of postwar trials of war criminals in Constantinople, today’s Istanbul, and interviews published in the Turkish press. Their conclusion is damning.

Read the rest here.

History, especially church history, is complicated

A recent WSJ article (“When Turkey Destroyed Its Christians“) on the Christian genocide committed by Turkey at the end of the 19th and early years of the 20th century reminds me that history is more complicated than we often realize. For example, on many college campuses and many areas of society, the assumption of Christian cultural hegemony is used to justify blatant anti-Christian animus.

While certain forms of Christianity (once mainline Protestantism, now Evangelical Christianity) have been culturally dominate in the US, others forms (primarily Catholicism and to a lesser degree Eastern Orthodoxy) have not only been marginal faiths but actively oppressed culturally and sometimes as a matter of law.

For example, a recent National Review article highlights how the anti-Catholicism of the 19th century continues today (Anti-Catholic ‘Blaine Amendments’ Harm Children Now, in the 21st
Century)

In the 19th century’s second half, fear and loathing of Catholic immigrants were ubiquitous and forthright. In 1854, Massachusetts’s governor and all but three members of the Legislature were members of the anti-Catholic Know Nothing party, and the Legislature’s Nunnery Committee searched for underground dungeons in convents. Protestantism was effectively a semi-established religion, widely taught in public schools with hymn singing and readings from the King James Version of the Bible. And many states enacted constitutional provisions such as Montana’s, adopted in 1889 and readopted in the 1972 constitution: There shall be no “direct or indirect appropriation or payment” of public monies “for any sectarian purpose” or to aid any institution “controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.”

These laws were meant specifically to hinder the growth of Catholic schools in favor of public schools that advanced the dominate Protestantism of the time.

Moving outside of America, Eastern Christians have been oppressed for centuries in Islamic countries. This history is largely unknown in America. Even one of the most significant periods of persecution (the Christian genocide perpetrated by Turkey) is unknown.

To say that America is a Christian nation or that Christianity has a cultural hegemony in America, shouldn’t be taken to mean that all forms of Christianity were treated equally. In fact, the very willingness of proponents of these ideas to group all Christian groups together is itself a Protestant notion.

To the degree that America is Christian, it is Protestant. To the degree that there is a Christian hegemony in America this dominance is (or was) exercised by traditions that arose with and after the Reformation.

While Orthodox and Catholic Christians have found a home in Protestant America, we have not found this home without a struggle. This shouldn’t be forgotten.

While there are differences, the current bias against Christians in some quarters is arguably at least in part a return to earlier forms of Protestant-American bigotry.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

The 2019 Great Lent Epistle of the Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine

Epistle - ПосланняBeloved in the Lord: CHRIST IS AMONG US!

To the God-beloved Pastors, Monastics, and all Faithful Children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora and Ukraine,

The Holy and Sacred Season of Great Lent is upon us! Each year, the Church offers us the Lenten season as a time of repentance and renewal. As for us, Orthodox Christians, the contemplation on this beautiful season of the Church year is a cause for much of spiritual joy!

There is real confusion in today’s world about the meaning of joy. Like happiness, joy is often seen as something that we can physically buy. We may be able to buy something that brings temporary pleasure: but we cannot buy joy. They must not be confused. Joy is a free gift from God.

This surreal and joyful season of Great Lent is an opportunity to be graced afresh by contemplating the presence of Christ in our lives. All our efforts to evangelize in our new millennium here in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in North America, Western Europe, Australia, South America and throughout Diaspora would be fruitless unless we ourselves have first contemplated on the presence of Christ in our relationship with the world around us. It is the presence of the One who has suffered, died and risen from the dead out of love for us. To be so loved by the God of love in the midst of all our sinfulness and human limitations, indeed, is a joyful experience. This is surely the starting point for the Lenten season and the key point in our reflection upon our path to salvation. It is all summarized in one word: conversion.

It resonates with a deep yearning and recognition within us. As we make our first prostrations, we are reminded of our own sinfulness.  Throughout the next 40 days we are called to repent and believe the Good News: God loves us. He sent His Beloved Son to suffer and die for us. He has risen from the dead and shares his new life with us. This is the heart of the Gospel. Lent refocuses our attention on this message of salvation, this good news through our ability to recognize and consider our identity as children of God.

Searching for our identity is part of life. We identify our “self” as a family member, spouse, sibling, clergyman, carpenter, farmer, doctor, entertainer or clerk. We also identify ourselves as Orthodox Christians, or as members of a parish. Identity involves discovering who we are as persons and what our role is by answering these questions: who am I, and why am I here? Growth in the awareness of our Christian identity is a lifelong process that shifts as we change. It is rooted in our Baptism, where we are transformed into our true identity as sons and daughters of the God. Holy Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians (“You should put away the old self of your former way of life . . . and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph 4:22, 24), challenges us to put away our former life and put on a new self. In other words, he tells us to turn from sinful ways and take on our new life in Christ. In so doing, we become one with Christ, where we find our true identity. We accept this challenge during the Great Lent, as we journey with Christ through life’s difficulties to eternal life.

In the Church’s Tradition the season of Great and Holy Lent has always been accompanied by the Lenten efforts of prayer, fasting and acts of charity. We know that parishes will be providing many extra opportunities for prayer over the days of Lenten journey. We call upon you to greater attendance at liturgical services of the season. We hope that the participation in the Holy Mystery of Repentance over this time will be a real priority in your lives and in all parishes. We hope that the prayers of the Church will offer people an invitation to be touched, healed, forgiven, comforted and strengthened by our Lord. Also, at home we recommend a closer attention to times of prayer and fasting and moments of genuine devotion in family life.

Secondly, our journey through Lent and preparation to more fitting celebration of Pascha – the Resurrection of our Lord – includes “willing service to our neighbor”. All Christian true conversion starts in the heart but never stays there. True spiritual conversion always seeks out acts of charity to give practical help to our neighbor in need. This is a vital aspect of who we are as children of God.

We also encourage practical gestures of prayerful compassion to children. In this Lenten period, we must remember that our children are so often victims of human selfishness in today’s world and deserve special attention.During this Lent, perhaps we could find ways in our neighborhoods to share something of the importance of Christ Jesus to those who do not believe in Him. Such efforts can start so simply: with a kind word and gentle smile in His Name.

As we embark upon this Lenten journey, it is the time to renew ourselves as Orthodox Christians. Upon baptism we assumed the obligation of sharing the Good News of Christ with others, of defending the Holy Orthodox faith from persecution and of living a Christ-centered life of love for others. This six-week journey entails striving for humility and contrition before God in our repentance, seeking mutual forgiveness from others and contemplating our renewal in our prayers. Let us open our hearts to let in that, which is eternal, that which is Truth and not be blinded by the temporal world around us. Where there is light there is hope. Through His life and suffering for our salvation, we gain renewed hope in the light of Christ’s glorious victory over death and in eternal life.

May our All-Merciful and Almighty Lord assist us on our journey through this Great Fast with humility and reverence so that we may be worthy to greet the glorious Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

With Hierarchical Blessings,

† YURIJ, Metropolitan, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

† ANTONY, Metropolitan, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and in the Diaspora

† JEREMIAH, Archbishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Brazil and South America

† DANIEL, Archbishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Western Europe

† ILARION, Bishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

†ANDRIY, Bishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

One Church or A Confederation of Churches?

Central to the Moscow Patriarchate’s objection to the recent Tomos of autocephaly for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is that there is no central authority in the Church. Rather, we saw earlier, the claim is that the Church is administratively “a confederation … of independent Churches which are not subordinate to each other, even if by protocol they occupy certain places.” It’s important to remember that this analogy is self-consciously drawn from the realm of secular politics rather than either the Scriptures of the Church fathers. Let me offer a few examples from the Scriptures to help explain why this appeal to secular geo-politics is theologically questionable.

For the Apostle Paul, the Church is the Body of Christ. For example, he reminds the fractious Corinthians that just as the human (or indeed, any) “body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body” we who are in Christ are one.

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact, the body is not one member but many (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).

He draws out the practical implications (vv. 17-18) of this a few verses later when he asks

If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.

Likewise, in Ephesians (4:1-16()Paul goes on to articulate the bodily analogy in terms of specific charisms (spiritual gifts) that are distributed to individual believers for the benefit of the whole Church.

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 and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

In addition to the more general goal of building up the whole body, these gifts are also given so that

…we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

The gifts are meant to function both to build up and correct. Or as he tells Timothy about Scripture “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

None of this, to be sure, means the Church is not administratively a confederation of independent churches. It does, however, mitigate against the rejection of a strong sense of primacy in the Church.

St Paul, for example, has no problem publicly castigating St Peter for the latter “compel[ling] Gentiles to live as Jews” and thereby denying by his actions that “a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (see Galatians 2:11-16).

Likewise, we read in Acts that the early Church had the authority to impose a universal norm on the whole Body of believers. In response to the controversy that arose because Paul and Barnabas baptizing, but not circumcising, new Gentile Christians “The apostles and elders” of the Church in Jerusalem “met to consider this question.”

After hearing both sides the Apostle James delivers what he explicitly describes as “my judgment” for the whole Church. Gentile Christians need not keep the Law of Moses but only “abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood” (Acts 15:1-22).

While this does not demonstrate a universal primacy, it does give pay to the idea that each local church is independent.

Underlying Moscow’s position, however, is a faulty logical and theological assumption. In the political realm, independence is not absolute. One major point of the UN, to use Hilarion’s example, is so that nations can hold each other accountable to each other in a real and not just abstract moral sense.

In the Church, there are moments when our freedom in Christ can ONLY be exercised through deference. We are, after all, told by St Paul, that to submit “to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). And, in another place he says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” It is in this way that we come to have the mind of Christ (see Philippians 2:3-5).

This submission is true not only in the political realm but on all levels of the Church. Child to parent but also parent to the needs of the child. We see it between husband and wife. We see it in the parish between the pastor and the congregation and in the diocese in the relationship of bishop and clergy and clergy with the bishop to the laity.

At one moment or another, we all of us are called by Christ to submit to another. And we do so not out of fear but as the natural consequence of the charisms. Just as the charismata are the concrete ways or modes by which we are in communion with Christ they are also, in Christ, the way in which we are in communion with each other.

To assert that the Orthodox Church is, administratively, a mere confederation of local Churches as Metropolitan Hilarion does, means that in truth we are NOT One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. In all levels of the Church, there are moments of subordination. We cannot place a fence around the local Churches because, if we do, if there are never moments in which one Church is subordinated to another, then there is no accountability, and so no communion.

Moscow’s argument is that each Church is independent and there is no Church is subordinated to any other Church or indeed the other Churches. To say this is to say that the gifts of the Church of Russia are not gifts also for the Church of Greece or Serbia or America or Constantinople.

It is instead to say the Churches exist as parallel social groups.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Consensus & the Heckler’s Veto

One of the arguments against autocephaly the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is that it was granted without a consensus of the other national Churches. I’ll speak about consensus in a moment but first I think it’s worth pointing out that the Moscow Patriarchate (through its representative Metropolitan Hilarion of the Department of External Affairs) contends that “administratively the Orthodox Church is a confederation (using the language of civil society and a comparison with a political structure) of independent Churches which are not subordinate to each other, even if by protocol they occupy certain places.”

His Eminence goes on to say that the Churches are

…like countries in the United Nations. They are listed in a certain order, but it does not mean that one country is subordinate to another one. In the same way, the Orthodox world has never known subordination of one Church to another Church. Now the Patriarchate of Constantinople wants to create such subordination, and the newly established organization in Ukraine is an “autocephalous church” (I say it in inverted commas), designed in accordance with the desires of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. It is not a truly independent Church, because the tomos granted to it lays down many conditions on which it receives this so-called “autocephaly.”

Sticking to the Orthodox anglosphere the OCA in its response to events agrees with Moscow that the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) is illegitimate and so they will not commemorate the primate of the OCU His Beatitude Epiphaniy, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine noting “That no changes be made to the diptychs, noting that the Orthodox Church in America has not been formally requested to make such changes.”

Bracketing for the moment the ecclesiological question of whether or not the Orthodox Church is administratively one or not, there is the epistemological question of the nature of consensus. What do Orthodox Christians mean by the term?

While some (notable the Moscow Patriarchate) seem to think any decision about the autocephaly of the Church in Ukraine be one to which all the Churches agree (i.e., unanimous). Moreover, this unanimity must be reached before any action is taken.

The former at least is not the plain meaning of consensus; the latter seems impossible given the requirement of a unanimous decision. And, in both cases, this turns “consensus” into a heckler’s veto.

The Catholic scholar James Chastek writing at Just Thomism offers what I think is a helpful insight as Orthodox Christians work through our current ecclesiastical crisis. In his post Consensus and Silence, he writes that what I would call the only relative value of consensus:

In the end, scientific or academic consensus is just one more set of arguments, no more or less than Plato’s descent of regimes, Mill’s Socrates and the pig, Hume’s fork, or Euclid 3.16.

He goes on to say that the appeal to consensus conceals within itself “the breakdown in social trust that allows people to accept an argument without having to go through it all.” Sociologically he traces this wound to trust to the growing “disillusioned with authority in the ’60’s and ’70’s.” Over time, distrust–suspicion–has become an intellectual habit of the disillusioned. And so “insisting on consensus is probably just a symptom of this disillusion.”

While Chastek is concerned with the peer review process in academia, his observations about this process are equally applicable to the Church. “Consensus is largely peer review, peer review is peer pressure, and peer pressure only silences dissent when it is relatively weak.” When the community is intellectually, morally and spiritually healthy. there is no

…need to silence anyone since contrary opinions never arise. They’re never even thought. You don’t usually need to tell people that what they’re thinking is not comme il faut any more than you need to tell them that what they’re wearing is.

What I think Chastek is pointing to is this: In a healthy community there is an ability to disagree agreeably. There is no need to silence minority opinions. The eccentric knows he views are marginal but there is still room for his views in the community.

It is only when I forget that our discussions, debates, and disagreements are all in the service of articulating the truth or am insecure in my own convictions that I am tempted to impose silence on those who disagree with me.

This temptation “is exacerbated” when I or the community has become “rigidly peer-pressured” and abandons an appreciation for the positive role of “eccentrics.”

In other words, we are where we are because (some of us at least) have grown to value conformity more than charity. The schism in Ukraine has gone on for almost 30 years. By the standards of the Great Schism–now more than a 1,000 years long–this is small potatoes.

But in both cases, I see a worrying tendency to seek out reasons to avoid the hard work that reconciliation requires.

To its credit, Constantinople has been willing to do the hard work. At the Council of Crete and in bilateral discussions with Moscow, the Ecumenical Throne tried to involve other Churches in the process of reconciling the various splinter groups in Ukraine. Unfortunately, these overtures were not reciprocated by Moscow or some of the other local Churches.

The challenge we face is this. To think of the Church administratively as a confederation of Churches degrades the conciliar nature of the Church. AAnd if, as Metropolitan Hilarion contends, the Church administratively is merely a confederation of Churches in which no Church “is subordinate to another one” consensus is nothing more the heckler’s veto rather than what it should be: the shared discernment of the truth.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Lies We Tell Ourselves #1: “We’re Growing!”

Over the next few days, I’ll post my slides and notes from the talk I gave recently in Grand Rapids for the Alance of Orthodox Christians:  “10 Lies Orthodox Christians Tell Ourselves.” Here’s the first thing we get wrong about ourselves.

We’ve heard this a lot over the years that Orthodoxy is the fastest growing religion in America.   The numbers tell a different story. We’re shrinking. We aren’t shrinking any faster than the Catholic Church or the Mainline Protestant communities but we are shrinking.

We can add to these numbers the fact that some 60% of those baptized as infants will leave the Church by the time they’re 25. Of the young people who stay, only about 1 in 4 will attend Liturgy on a weekly basis.

And while exact numbers are hard to come by, converts—those who become Orthodox as adults—tend to leave the Church at the same rate as young adults.



For more on this and for the rest of my talk:

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

How Tech Challenges the Church

…it’s obvious that the gatekeepers of the old world have been bypassed. There’s now a direct audience-to-ideologue connection. Jordan Peterson often points to this direct connection as one of the key binding agents in the Intellectual Dark Web – that people like him, Sam Harris, Ben Shapiro, Dave Rubin, have built their own vast audiences from nothing but charisma and ideas worth hearing, on the new technologies of YouTube and podcast.

Source: The growing power of the YouTube Right – UnHerd

 

 

Statement of the Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine

Source: (UOC-USA)

To the Venerable Clergy, Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox  Church in Diaspora:

CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED HE IS RISEN!

We write to you all having been informed about recent events in Ukraine surrounding the life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  If you have not yet heard or read anything about these events, which are filling the social websites and media in and beyond Ukraine, we hereby inform you that the President of Ukraine met in a day-long audience with His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, on Bright Monday – 9 April 2018.  The result of this meeting was the beginning of the Patriarchate’s long-awaited consideration of Autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Upon his return to Ukraine, President Poroshenko immediately began the process of rallying the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine and the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament).  All the hierarchs of two of the three jurisdictions and the vast majority of the Rada responded to the President’s emotional appeal to support the process of asking His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew and the Holy Synod of Constantinople to move forward with the process of granting a Tomos of Autocephaly to the Church in Ukraine, which has for 1030 years been the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, since 988 when our nation was baptized and confirmed into the Holy Orthodox Faith.

Not even under 332 years of non-canonical and often tortuous subjugation to a foreign Orthodox patriarchate could the faithful of Ukraine be convinced that they did not belong to the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  This is simple history, as documented by generations of Patriarchs and Synods of Constantinople, which never abandoned its canonical rights and privileges in Ukraine.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate, through releases on its own website and through the media has confirmed that the process of considering the Autocephalous status of the Church of Ukraine has begun, which will continue through the next meeting of the Holy Synod to be held in May.

President Poroshenko in all his public appearances and statements about these current events has been incredibly enthusiastic about the possibility of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukraine being granted even by the 1030thanniversary in July 2018 of the Baptism of Ukraine into the Orthodox Faith in 988 by Equal-to-the-Apostles, Great Prince Volodymyr.

The Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine has written a strong letter of support for the actions being taken by His All-Holiness and the Holy Synod of Constantinople regarding the possible granting of a Tomos of Autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church.  We have assured His All-Holiness of the unceasing prayers of not only the hierarchs, but also the millions of Ukrainian Orthodox clergy and faithful in and beyond the borders of Ukraine, for him personally during this process.

We invite our faithful to join us in this prayer: 

Prayer for the Unification of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

O Lord our God, You can see, as the invisible and visible enemies divided the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and with it all Ukrainian people. Help us to promote the unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy into a single Church, putting the cornerstone of apostolic rule that orders us to know that every nation, and among them the Ukrainian people, must have its first hierarch.

O Lord, inspire our separated brethren, so that they will unite around the Throne of Kyiv into a single Church and that Christian love would prevail among all of us, because You said: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”.

Look upon us, Lord the Lover of all mankind, and do not punish us for our iniquities, voluntary and involuntary, committed in knowledge and in ignorance. Let us have a true love amongst us, forgive us our trespasses and do not remember our transgressions.

Great Merciful Master, protect and preserve Ukraine from those who encroach on its independence and wants to divide it, as you have always protect the Christian countries. Let a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church be a strong spiritual foundation for the indivisible Ukraine and the unity of our people, let it enemies be scattered and let peace, harmony and unity prevail in us.

O Lord, You said: “For without me you can do nothing.” Hear, o God, prayer of your faithful and bless the begun matter of the unity of the Orthodox in a single Church of Ukraine to lead to a successful conclusion. To His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, the Ukrainian Orthodox Hierarchs, the President, the Verkhovna Rada, and all those who work for this, send wisdom and inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, and in the good cause of the recognition of the Ukrainian Church to bring everyone to close conclusion. For Yours it is to have mercy on and save us, our God and we glorify You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

With Archpastoral Blessings,

+YURIJ, Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

+ANTONY, Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora

+JEREMIAH, Archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Eparchies of Brasil and South America

+DANIEL, Archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Western Europe

+ILARION, Bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

+ANDRIY, Bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

Aquinas’s Thoughts on God

Most excellent!

Source (Eclectic Orthodoxy). Far from being a ‘supreme being’, a nameless deity beyond the world who is ultimately in charge of everything, God is maxime ens, who enjoys being in the highest possible degree. Such a reality must be thought to be utterly simple, but simple in the ‘concrete’ sense of perfection, including, in its simple being, the perfection of all things. And, as implied by his universal perfection, God is self-diffusive goodness, the abundant source of all the good gifts which creatures receive from him, among which the gift of ‘being’ occupies the first place. Consequent upon its simplicity, the reality of God must be thought to be infinite, but infinite in the sense of being most intimately present in each thing, causing it to be from within. And also, as implied by its simplicity, it must be thought to be absolutely unchangeable, but in the sense of being enduringly present to everything which changes over time. The mark of subsistence as qualifying the simplicity of the divine being appears here to be of crucial importance. It is not the subsistence of a supreme substance, conceived somehow as inert and static, enclosed in itself, prior to its creative activity with respect to the world of creatures; rather, the divine essence is the full and unrestricted actuality (actus purus) of being, which, by nature, tends to communicate its actuality to other things by letting them share in being.

There is something in Thomas’ conception of God as ipsum esse per se subsistens that does not fit very well into the picture of ‘classical theism’. Classical theism, as it is usually understood, tends to view God as an absolute entity existing independently of the world. The theistic God looks more like a being, a ‘self-contained substance’ above and apart from the world, than the pure actuality of subsistent being itself. From Thomas’ perspective, this would mean that the independence of God, as over against the world of finite beings, is conceived wrongly. It is as if the character of subsistence, attributed to a theistically conceived God, is a logical expression by means of which we think of God as separated from the world, as a distinct reality, while Thomas intends to express by subsistence that the being of God is separated through itself from all other beings. The difference is crucial. For Thomas, God is not ‘separated’ from the world as a subsistent entity conceivable apart from his causal relationship to created beings; it is as cause of all beings that God ‘separates’ himself from all his effects by distinguishing those effects from himself. In this sense the ‘concept’ of God is, in truth, the concept of the relationship of God and world, conceived as an ordered plurality of diverse beings, each of which receives its being from the divine source of being. For Thomas there is no way of thinking of God concretely outside the relationship. The independence, or absoluteness, of God characterizes the way He relates as cause to all other things; it is the independence of the perfect goodness of God, who is not under any obligation or necessity to fulfil himself by creating, but who acts out of his own goodness, establishing all other things in being by letting them share in his own perfection.

Rudi te Velde, Aquinas on God, pp. 84-85