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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Friday, 4 August 2017

COUNCIL DEFINITIONS AND THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH


Santa Sophia
It is related that a young German theologian called Joseph Ratzinger was showing some friends around Rome during Vatican II when they came across a large statue of a Roman emperor.   “Who is that?” one of them asked. “Oh, that is the emperor Constantine,” replied Ratzinger  “We buried him last week.”   He was referring to the proclamation of one of the council documents, perhaps “Sacrosanctum Concilium” on the Liturgy or “Lumen Gentium” on the Church.   This has enormous implications for the unity of Christ’s Church, as did the alliance between Church and Empire so long ago.  

Constantine
I believe that the young Joseph Ratzinger was not exaggerating when he told his friends what Vatican II implied, but we had to wait for Pope Francis who expressed these implications with clarity when he said  that the only authority the Church has is service, and the only power the Church has is the Cross.   Authority in the Empire was based on conquest, on sheer power, while authority in the Church can only be authentically exercised    as an expression of ecclesial love which, by the presence of the Holy Spirit, is a reflection of the kenotic love of God.  Authority in the Church, the body of Christ, is different in kind from that of Caesar and his successors.   This became obscured when Christendom was born, and many of the quarrels between Christians that have taken place since have been caused, at least in part, by this confusion.   The often uneasy relationship between Church and Empire produced great saints and many wonders and was probably a necessary stage in the history of the Church, but it couldn't last because it was based on a synergy between church and state in which church law and state law are basically the same kind of thing, only working at different dimensions of human life but based on the same principles..
The Art of Eternity: The Byzantine Empire

Apostolic Christianity has divided down the centuries into four streams, each stream differing from the other three by its relationship or lack of it to the Byzantine Empire. There are other differences too, as the theologians will rush in to assure us. Nevertheless, their differing relationship to the Empire plays a major role in all of the other differences that have  existed since the time Constantine was converted and civil power began to play a significant role in pan-Christian affairs.

 Before we go further I must define my terms. What do I mean by "Apostolic Christianity"?  What are the four streams?  How do they differ from Christian bodies not included in "Apostolic Christianity"?  I shall not  try to solve the differences between them  because that would require a large volume rather than a short article and is beyond my competence, but I shall allow some videos to fill the space left by my ignorance.

There are four separated ecclesiastic families, each claiming to be the whole universal Catholic Church, and each claiming their ecclesial Tradition to be the whole Catholic Tradition that excludes all rivals.  Using “eucharistic ecclesiology” I shall try to show in what sense their claims are true and  in what sense they need to be modified  to a way that will permit them to recognise each other as “sister churches”.



Apostolic Christianity is composed of those churches which have a continuity in faith, understanding, liturgy and ecclesial structure with the church formed by apostolic preaching in the first century.  Of course, by separating themselves from other churches of apostolic foundation, they departed from their earlier practice  because they do not recognise a development in the other streams something demanded of them by their own ecclesial and liturgical tradition; but they have not  separated themselves from what has been handed to them. .  In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, each stream has done its best to live by the "hermeneutic of continuity", according to Tradition, in faith, understanding, liturgy and ecclesial structure, and have benefited in this from the active presence of the Holy Spirit invoked in the liturgy, even when they have been led  by a mistaken zeal for orthodoxy or by human weakness to break relations with other churches.  Yet, even when political considerations coupled with ignorance of the other have been involved in this decision, it still remains that they have remained true to their own tradition that goes back to the Apostles so they can, therefore, still be called Apostolic churches.

As their differing relationships with the Byzantine Empire has played a major role in the formation of schism between the Apostolic churches, let us look at the original relationship between the churches and the Empire.  Remember that the Empire’s true title, what it called itself, was not “Byzantine” but “Roman”: it was the identical empire that had been ruled over by Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus, and the people called themselves “Romans”.   

In the first centuries of the Christian era, to the East with its border in Syria was the Persian Empire.  Syria was split,  with the western part, including part of modern Turkey, under "Roman" rule; and the eastern part under the Persians. The Persians did not trust the allegiance of the Syrians under them and cut them off from contact with Syrians living in the Christian Empire. 

  The Syrians had their own semitic culture and spoke a version of Aramaic, the language of Our Lord. Those in the Byzantine Empire, like the Egyptians who also had their own culture, were none too keen on being ruled from Constantinople.

In western Europe, the Roman legions were not strong enough either to preserve order or protect the land from invaders for any length of time.  The Emperor Justinian was successful in beating back the barbarians, but his victories won peace in the west only for a time.   When Pope St Gregory the Great took over a large part of Italy for the sake of the people, he did so in the Emperor's name; but it, in time evolved into the papal states.  When the Greek Pope Leo III crowned the barbarian Charlemagne on Christmas Day, 800, as western Emperor, he was only recognising the political reality.

The difference between the two empires couldn't have been more different, the real Roman Empire and its barbarian counterpart, and this  meant that, while the faith was the same, the relationship between Church and state was very different, the pastoral problems were very different, and emphasis placed on different aspects of Church teaching was different in order to deal with the pastoral problems.   To make matters worse, in the western empire there were people jealous of Byzantium because of its wealth and because it was the authentic Roman Empire, and this fuelled their contempt for its weaknesses, while the Greeks had contempt for the semi-civilised barbarians of the west.   Neither side trusted the other.   

By the time Constantinople fell in 1453, the sad schisms between the four families of Apostolic churches were already fixed; and they coincided with political divisions which contributed much to bringing them about. We shall look at each of these apostolic families and how each became what it is today. 


The Lost Empire, a BBC documentary

SYRIAN CHRISTIANITY
Dr Sebastian Brock on the Syrian Tradition

The border between the two empires divided Syrian Christianity, so that those in the Persian Empire were liturgically and theologically different from those in the Byzantine Empire, even though they shared the same Syriac language, (a dialect of Aramaic), strong Judeo-Christian roots and Semitic culture; though those who lived in the Byzantine Empire were open to the Greek speaking world which was quite foreign to those  in Persian Syria.

It is the church in Persian Syria that constitutes the first of the four families of Apostolic churches under consideration, together with the Malabar Christians of Southern India. Its present title is the Assyrian Church of the East.   It can be found in Iraq, Iran and Syria, but mostly in Iraq.  Mosul (the Biblical Nineveh) was once a mainly Christian city; and this tradition was strongly represented there until recently, when Islamic State declared war on Christians. 

I shall leave to Dr Sebastian Brock the task of telling you about Syriac Christianity.  It is enough for me to say that the Assyrian Church of the East is semitic rather than Greek, and that much of its serious theology in the first centuries was put in poetry and song rather than treatises.  As they were in the Persian Empire rather than the Byzantine, they were never invited to the early ecumenical councils and only heard of them many years afterwards.  They registered their agreement with the Council of Nicaea, but only 85 years after it took place!  They have an extremely ancient liturgy in Aramaic, and one of the three eucharistic prayers they us, written around 200AD, does not have the words of institution, "this is my body...this is the chalice of my blood" included in it.   Although this is unique in modern times, it was quite common in the early Church. including the description of the Mass in the 4th century Church of Jerusalem in St Cyril of Jerusalem's Mystagogical Catecheses.   Finally, the theologian who gave them their theological vocabulary was Saint Theodore of Mopstuestia.

Although St Theodore was not a heretic, his vocabulary was considered too imprecise to express the mystery of the Incarnation for which a new vocabulary was being forged.   Particularly opposed to the "school of Antioch" was the "school of Alexandria".   Although he died in peace with the Church in the year when Nestorius (who may have been his cousin) became Patriarch of Constantinople, he became a figure of controversy after his death, especially as both Pelagians and Nestorians appealed to his writings. 

Here is a dialogue between an Assyrian bishop (descendent from the "school of Antioch) and a Coptic priest (descendent of the school of Alexandria).   Notice that the Copt looks a bit like a Byzantine (Orthodox) priest because the Copts belonged to the Byzantine Empire.  In contrast, the Assyrian looks like a Catholic (Latin) prelate; not because they are closer to us, but because their problem was with Byzantium and thus felt more comfortable in our style of dress.  We live further away.
I shall be using the Introduction to Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev's excellent book, "The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian," to show us why the Assyrian Church of the East rejected the councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451).  Remember that they were not invited to either council, that the discussions took place in a foreign language, and it was not clear on whose authority they were obligated to accept the outcome: it could have been the authority of the Byzantine Emperor, though Pope Leo would have said that it was the Roman See that gave Christian legitimacy to the council.

Theodore of Mopsuestia had an inadequate vocabulary.  As Metropolitan Hilarion writes:

We need to look at why the Church of the East not accept the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon...The representatives of the antiochene school, Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius of Constantinople, suggested the following terminological expression of the unity between the two natures: God the Word "assumed" the man Jesus, the unbegotten Word of God "inhabited" the one who was born from Mary, the Word dwelt in the man as in a "temple", the Word put on human nature as a "garment".  The man Jesus was united to the Word and assumed divine dignity. When asked the question, "Who suffered on the Cross?" they would answer: "The flesh of Christ," "the humanity of Christ", "his human nature", or "the things human".   Thus they drew a sharp line between the divine and human natures of Christ....The alexandrian tradition which, in the person of Cyril of Alexandria, was in conflict with Nestorius, opposed to the antiochene scheme another understanding of the two natures: the Word became human and did not merely 'assume' human nature: the unbegotten Word of God is the same person as Jesus born from Mary; therefore, it was the Word himself who 'suffered in the flesh' (epathen sarki). Thus, there is one Son, one hypostasis, 'one nature of God, the Word incarnate' (mia physis to theou logou sesarkomene).  The latter phrase, which belonged to Apollinaris of Laodicaea, cast suspicion of 'mixture' and 'confusion' of the two natures on Cyril of Alexandria.   Cyril's Christology was confirmed by the Council of Ephesus (431) and rejected by the east-syrian theological tradition, which remained faithful to the Christological terminology of Theodore and Diodore.
The Council of Chalcedon (451) returned to the antiochene strict distinction between the two natures, but tended to avoid the terminology of 'indwelling' of the divinity in the humanity and of 'assumption' of the human nature by the divine nature.
   The chalcedonian definition of faith was meant to bring about a reconciliation between the alexandrian and antiochene parties by accentuating simultaneously the unity of the hypostasis of Christ and the existence of two natures.
Why did the east-syrian tradition not accept the Council of Ephesus?  The answer is concealed not in the personality of Nestorius - he was barely known in Persia even by name until the sixth century - but in the prcedures of the council.  The Church of Persia did not accept the Council mainly because it was conducted by Cyril of Alexandria and his adherents in the absence of John of Antioch who, on arrival at Ephesus, anathematized Cyril.   The Christological position of the Council of Ephesus was purely alexandrian: it took no account of the antiochene position, and it was because of the antiochene (and not nestorian) Christology that was the Christology of the Church of the East. 
 It is more difficult to answer the question of why the Council of Chalcedon was not accepted by the East Syrians.  Its formula ‘one hypostasis in two natures’ should have brought agree ment between the warring factions.  The greek word hypostasis meant a specific person, Jesus Christ, God the Word whereas the word physis referred to the humanity and divinity of Christ.   When translated into Syriac, however, the termininolological distinction could not be expressed  adequately since in the Syriac the word qnoma (used to translate hypostasis) carried the meaning of the individual expression of kyana (nature); thus Syriac writers normally spoke of natures and their gnome.
Consequently, whereas Severus of Antioch thought that one hypostasis implies one nature, diophysite writers claimed that two natures imply two hypostases. 

Hence, the schism and accusations of heresy were based on misunderstanding because the Greek formula of Chacedon could not be translated into Syriac.  What scholars like Metropolitan Hilarion tell us has been found to be true and are reflected in the Joint Agreement between Pope John Paul II and the Church of the East.:

COMMON CHRISTOLOGICAL DECLARATION
BETWEEN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
AND THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST
 11 November 1994


His Holiness John Paul II, Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic Church, and His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, give thanks to God who has prompted them to this new brotherly meeting.

Both of them consider this meeting as a basic step on the way towards the full communion to be restored between their Churches. They can indeed, from now on, proclaim together before the world their common faith in the mystery of the Incarnation.

***

As heirs and guardians of the faith received from the Apostles as formulated by our common Fathers in the Nicene Creed, we confess one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten of the Father from all eternity who, in the fullness of time, came down from heaven and became man for our salvation. The Word of God, second Person of the Holy Trinity, became incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit in assuming from the holy Virgin Mary a body animated by a rational soul, with which he was indissolubly united from the moment of his conception.

Therefore our Lord Jesus Christ is true God and true man, perfect in his divinity and perfect in his humanity, consubstantial with the Father and consubstantial with us in all things but sin. His divinity and his humanity are united in one person, without confusion or change, without division or separation. In him has been preserved the difference of the natures of divinity and humanity, with all their properties, faculties and operations. But far from constituting "one and another", the divinity and humanity are united in the person of the same and unique Son of God and Lord Jesus Christ, who is the object of a single adoration.

Christ therefore is not an " ordinary man" whom God adopted in order to reside in him and inspire him, as in the righteous ones and the prophets. But the same God the Word, begotten of his Father before all worlds without beginning according to his divinity, was born of a mother without a father in the last times according to his humanity. The humanity to which the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth always was that of the Son of God himself. That is the reason why the Assyrian Church of the East is praying the Virgin Mary as "the Mother of Christ our God and Saviour". In the light of this same faith the Catholic tradition addresses the Virgin Mary as "the Mother of God" and also as "the Mother of Christ". We both recognize the legitimacy and rightness of these expressions of the same faith and we both respect the preference of each Church in her liturgical life and piety.

This is the unique faith that we profess in the mystery of Christ. The controversies of the past led to anathemas, bearing on persons and on formulas. The Lord's Spirit permits us to understand better today that the divisions brought about in this way were due in large part to misunderstandings.

Whatever our Christological divergences have been, we experience ourselves united today in the confession of the same faith in the Son of God who became man so that we might become children of God by his grace. We wish from now on to witness together to this faith in the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, proclaiming it in appropriate ways to our contemporaries, so that the world may believe in the Gospel of salvation.

***
The mystery of the Incarnation which we profess in common is not an abstract and isolated truth. It refers to the Son of God sent to save us. The economy of salvation, which has its origin in the mystery of communion of the Holy Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit —, is brought to its fulfilment through the sharing in this communion, by grace, within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, which is the People of God, the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Spirit.

Believers become members of this Body through the sacrament of Baptism, through which, by water and the working of the Holy Spirit, they are born again as new creatures. They are confirmed by the seal of the Holy Spirit who bestows the sacrament of Anointing. Their communion with God and among themselves is brought to full realization by the celebration of the unique offering of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. This communion is restored for the sinful members of the Church when they are reconciled with God and with one another through the sacrament of Forgiveness. The sacrament of Ordination to the ministerial priesthood in the apostolic succession assures the authenticity of the faith, the sacraments and the communion in each local Church.

Living by this faith and these sacraments, it follows as a consequence that the particular Catholic churches and the particular Assyrian churches can recognize each other as sister Churches. To be full and entire, communion presupposes the unanimity concerning the content of the faith, the sacraments and the constitution of the Church. Since this unanimity for which we aim has not yet been attained, we cannot unfortunately celebrate together the Eucharist which is the sign of the ecclesial communion already fully restored.

Nevertheless, the deep spiritual communion in the faith and the mutual trust already existing between our Churches, entitle us from now on to consider witnessing together to the Gospel message and cooperating in particular pastoral situations, including especially the areas of catechesis and the formation of future priests.

THE ORIENTAL ORTHODOX

I shall not go into the same detail about the history of the Oriental Orthodox and their theological relationship with Catholicism and Orthodoxy, but will leave that to two videos and the Agreed Statement between Pope Paul VI and the Coptic pope.  Once again, the real difference is one of vocabulary, leading to misunderstanding.   The formula of Chalcedon has been of enormous importance to Tradition and understood by Orthodoxy and Catholicism, but, as a means of reconciliation the Church of the East and the Oriental Orthodox to the Orthodox and Catholic communion, it was a dead loss.


COMMON DECLARATION
OF POPE PAUL VI AND OF
THE POPE OF ALEXANDRIA SHENOUDA III
May 10, 1973

Image result for POPE PAUL VI AND OF THE POPE OF ALEXANDRIA SHENOUDA III
Paul VI, bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic Church, and Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and patriarch of the See of St. Mark, give thanks in the Holy Spirit to God that, after the great event of the return of relics of St. Mark to Egypt, relations have further developed between the Churches of Rome and Alexandria so that they have now been able to meet personally together. At the end of their meetings and conversations they wish to state together the following:
We have met in the desire to deepen the relations between our Churches and to find concrete ways to overcome the obstacles in the way of our real cooperation in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ who has given us the ministry of reconciliation, to reconcile the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:18-20).
In accordance with our apostolic traditions transmitted to our Churches and preserved therein, and in conformity with the early three ecumenical councils, we confess one faith in the One Triune God, the divinity of the Only Begotten Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Word of God, the effulgence of His glory and the express image of His substance, who for us was incarnate, assuming for Himself a real body with a rational soul, and who shared with us our humanity but without sin. We confess that our Lord and God and Saviour and King of us all, Jesus Christ, is perfect God with respect to His Divinity, perfect man with respect to His humanity. In Him His divinity is united with His humanity in a real, perfect union without mingling, without commixtion, without confusion, without alteration, without division, without separation. His divinity did not separate from His humanity for an instant, not for the twinkling of an eye. He who is God eternal and invisible became visible in the flesh, and took upon Himself the form of a servant. In Him are preserved all the properties of the divinity and all the properties of the humanity, together in a real, perfect, indivisible and inseparable union.
The divine life is given to us and is nourished in us through the seven sacraments of Christ in His Church: Baptism, Chrism (Confirmation), Holy Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony and Holy Orders.
We venerate the Virgin Mary, Mother of the True Light, and we confess that she is ever Virgin, the God- bearer. She intercedes for us, and, as the Theotokos, excels in her dignity all angelic hosts.

We have, to a large degree, the same understanding of the Church, founded upon the Apostles, and of the important role of ecumenical and local councils. Our spirituality is well and profoundly expressed in our rituals and in the Liturgy of the Mass which comprises the centre of our public prayer and the culmination of our in corporation into Christ in His Church. We keep the fasts and feasts of our faith. We venerate the relics of the saints and ask the intercession of the angels and of the saints, the living and the departed. These compose a cloud of witnesses in the Church. They and we look in hope for the Second Coming of our Lord when His glory will be revealed to judge the living and the dead.....

CATHOLIC - ORTHODOX DIALOGUE

This post would be too long if I were to treat this subject, even remotely, how it deserves.  In the agreed statements it is agreed that some of the differences are simply mistakes, others like the filioque are partly due to a difference between the greek word and the latin word, others because two different cultures and historical circumstances led the two churches to put emphasis on different things but did not know enough of the other to know their motivation etc.
Two things can be said in passing:

1) Since Vatican II, and thanks to Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, our differences on the Church are now being discussed within the context of eucharistic ecclesiology: this is the first time that we discuss while using the same paradigm of the Church

2)  It has become recognised by the theologians of both churches that their understanding of the Church requires a primate at a universal level as well as at a regional and local level.   But, since Chieti, (2016), it has been also recognised that the papal petrine primacy was not universally recognised in East and West in the first thousand years.  The implications of both these points are still being worked out.





CONCLUSIONS

Thanks to the work of Metropolitan Hilarion, we have seen that what is, perhaps, the longest schism in history was not about differences of faith, but of culture, vocabulary and political borders.   In fact, the two sides had the same faith but different theologies due to their different languages and cultures.  By insisting that the Church in Persia adopt the Chalcedonian definition that didn't make sense in Syriac, the Council, with the best will in the world, helped to divide the Church.  Nevertheless, the Persian Church kept their loyalty to Catholic truth as passed down by their Church from apostolic times and have celebrated the whole Christian mystery intact, in spite of their lack of unity with universal communion, which is not, and never has been, their fault.

The same thing can be said for the Oriental Orthodox churches who are NOT monophysites, but fully Catholic apart from the universal communion.

Looking at all three schisms, the important contribution that the Church's links with civil society towards schism must be  studied.  Is it not true that part of the problem, since Constantine, is that the Church has allowed civil power, based on conquest, to be linked too closely with ecclesial power that should be an expression of God's universal love.   Hence, the Church of Persia was not invited to the Councils because "ecumenical" meant, not universal in a Catholic sense, but in an imperial sense.  One means absolutely universal, even cosmic, while the other is intrinsically limited to the power of an earthly leader.  Confusing the two was a basic error.  Later, those in Egypt who accepted Chalcedon were called "Melkite" or "king's men.   When the Empire collapsed in the West, the Papacy came to look more and more like an imperial court.   After the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, the Orthodox Churches divided into fourteen patriarchates that frequently compete like countries, jostling for influence.  How different from the Letter to Diognetus:


The Christians in the world 

"Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign. 

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.  

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred. 


To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments....

Let us bury Constantine together.   Christendom produced many wonders and the life of grace we have inherited has been greatly enriched; but it is now in the past.  Let us embrace each other in love, knowing that in ecclesial love there is the Holy Spirit. Let us, like the Desert Fathers, like St Francis and St Seraphim of Sarov, bear witness to the world by being different.

QUESTIONS

If in Eucharistic  ecclesiology the source and goal of all the Church's activities and powers, and hence the  embodiement of Tradition,  is the sacred liturgy, and if the liturgy is always the basic activity of the local church, then it follows from the very  nature of the Church that Catholic Tradition takes many forms according to the languege, culture, history and liturgy of each region.   If the most basic relationship of local and regional churches, one to the others, is that of identity like hosts in a cinorium, in that each church is body of Christ, and all of them together in a regional or universal grouping, are  body of Christ, then, for all the differences of language, culture, history and liturgy, there is a fundamental harmony and coherence between the traditions of all churches, though itis possible  for one tradition to see a truth that others do not, especially if it has an importance for its own Christian life because of conditions peculiar to that local or regional church.   As the traditions pf each church are simply versions of a single Catholic Tradition, this truth would normally be discovered by the other churches quite naturally in their shared life with the other churches, without any problem or violence to their own traditions; example: private confession  began by Irish monks in western Europe, spread   throughout the Church without difficulty.

 However, what happens when a regional church is separated from the rest, either through no fault of its own or by mutual misunderstanding.or by fault in the past, without, however, being unfaithful to what has been handed down to them from apostolic times?
Must we always oversimplify the reasons for schism, making out our own church is without blame while the other is full of pride?   Does not that judgement break the Lord's commandment not to judge others?   Why is it that the monks of Mount Athos consider themselves exempt from obeying that commandment.
What is the status of dogmatic definitions and/or teaching in one's own tradition to other traditions where a particular doctrinal development have not taken place?


One thing is certain, that the ecumenical discussions between Catholic and Orthodox theologians on the Papacy are an enormous benefit to the Catholic Church in its post-Vatican II reform because it is learning to put the whole papal question and the problems that arise from it in a wider context.
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