Catholic and Orthodox Unity: Waxing Editorially

h/t: Square Zero

Thanks to Tod K who sent me a link to a new report on the most recent round of Catholic/Orthodox theological discussions looking at the question of the role of the Bishop of Rome in the first millennium.  I’ve been away from my desk and so the internet for a few days so I haven’t had a chance to check the different press releases until this morning.  So thank you Tod for your email.

As for my view, I would agree with think Metropolitan John Zizioulas that reconciliation will require “an adaptation from both sides.”  For the Orthodox Church this means coming to appreciate more fully the universal level of the Church.  Historical circumstances, and especially advances telecommunications and travel, have brought all the local or territorial Churches into greater contact with each other than ever before.  What might once have been a local decision of, say, the Church in Russia now is known, and has an effect on, the Church in Greece or the United States.

On the other hand, as Zizioulas points out,  in is also important for the Catholic Church to come to a fuller appreciation of  the importance of the synodal structure of the Church.  This is I think the flip side of the effects of globalization.  Yes, the Church must learn to speak with one voice–even some form of a centralized voice–but this can’t happen at the expense of the local Church.  Just as economic globalization has proven to be both a bless and a threat to local cultures, so to a universal voice is both a blessing and a threat to the local Church.  What is needed is a balance of the local and the universal levels.  If I may hazard a judgment, I think the conflict we often see between Catholic and Orthodox Christians reflect each Churches have overemphasizing  one ecclesiological pole at the expense of the other.

So for the Orthodox what seems to matter most is the authority (and, let’s be honest, sometimes the autonomy and independence) of the local Church.  This has led to a patchwork of often mutually exclusive pastoral practices (e.g., how to receive Christians from other tradition) that undermine our witness as one Church.  On the Catholic side, however, I also see all manner of abuses–again often liturgical in nature–that are tolerated as long as they don’t challenge papal authority.  Yes, to be sure, I have oversimplified the matter but I think my basic observation is legitimate for that it can be rightly criticized in the details.

The thing that most catches my attention though is the sheer sociological and psychological complexity of a reconciliation between the two Churches.  True reconciliation (and for that matter, true repentance and forgive) as it always does, changes radically changes how I relate not only to God and my neighbor but also myself.  So I wonder, how will reconciliation change how each Church sees and understands itself?

I don’t know the answer to this but I am terribly interested to see what develops in the coming years.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Through The Cross Joy Has Come to All The World

I will return on Monday to discussing the dynamics of the core group and those on the margin.  While I rarely post about weighty matters on Saturday, Chrys sent me a very interesting post from the National Review Online.  Here it is:

What It Looks Like on Saturday Morning   [Mike Potemra]

“Aquinas . . . build[s] upon Augustine’s idea of thought as a ‘higher kind of life.’ Intellection, then, is not an indifferent speculation; it is rather a beautiful ratio which is instantiated between things and the mind which leaves neither things nor the mind unchanged. This means that one must think of knowing-a-thing as an act of generosity, or salvific compensation for the exclusivity and discreteness of things. . . . In intellection, the Soul mediates things: ‘The Soul is in a manner all things’ as Aristotle declared in the De Anima. It is a corrective or remedy, according to Aquinas in De Veritate, for the isolation of substantive beings.” — Catherine Pickstock, in Milbank and Pickstock, Truth in Aquinas.

This description of what happens when we know captures the sense one has, on good days, that the human mind is not finally condemned to be a prisoner inside itself, a ghost forever trapped inside its machine, but is meant to break down the barriers, and imitate God by, like God, uniting itself in love with all Being. I couldn’t possibly prove that this view is true; I don’t know if the best thinkers who ever lived could prove it to be true (or false, for that matter). But doesn’t it reflect an experience we all sometimes have? And doesn’t that point to a possibility — one that we should cherish and further investigate — of the universe not as a stark object opposed to human subjects, but as a place intended by its fashioner specifically to be loved, by us as well as by himself?

Reading Pickstock’s thoughts on Aquinas and the Potemra’s comments on her thought, I am struck by how  absolutely lovely is the truth expounded here. It is the great honor and task of the human person–and especially the Christian–to imitate God and unity in our hearts all things.  Let me explain. Continue reading

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