There is no breakthrough in Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue

H/T: Russian Orthodox Church (here)

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk: Allegations about a ‘breakthrough’ in Orthodox-Catholic dialogue are untrue

As has been stressed by the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the working document of the Joint International Commission for Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue, publicized so widely by some media, does not reflect the attitude of the Orthodox side to the problem of primacy of the bishop of Rome and can be viewed only as a purely auxiliary paper for further work.

Contrary to allegations in the press, the Orthodox-Catholic Commission meeting in Vienna has made no ‘breakthrough’ whatsoever. The entire meeting was devoted to a discussion on the role of the bishop of Rome in the first millennium. The Commission’s coordinating committee had drafted a document on this issue, which was discussed last year in Cyprus. A rough draft of this document ‘leaked’ into the mass media and was published.

It was planned to finalize the discussion on this draft in Vienna. However, something different happened as the discussion on the status of this draft took too much time. The Orthodox participants, from the very beginning of the meeting, insisted that ‘Crete Document’ could not be officially published on behalf of the Commission, nor could it be signed by its members. From our point of view, this draft has to be considerably revised, but even after the revision it only could have the status of ‘working document’, that is, auxiliary material (instrumentum laboris) which could be used in preparing subsequent documents and could have no official status.

‘The Crete Document’ is purely historical and, speaking of the role of the bishop of Rome, it makes almost no mention of bishops of other Local Churches in the first millennium, thus creating a wrong impression of how powers were distributed in the Early Church. Besides, the document is lacking any clear statement that the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome did not extend to the East in the first millennium. It is hoped that these gaps and omissions will be made up in revising the text.

After a long discussion, the Commission agreed that this document should be improved and that a final decision on its status should be made at the next plenary session of the Commission, that is, presumably in two-year’s time. By this time a new draft document will have been elaborated to deal with the same problem but from the theological perspective.

For the Orthodox participants, it is clear that in the first millennium the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome was exercised only in the West, while in the East, the territories were divided between four Patriarchs – those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. The bishop of Rome did not exercise any direct jurisdiction in the East in spite of the fact that in some cases Eastern hierarchs appealed to him as arbiter in theological disputes. These appeals were not systematic and can in no way be interpreted in the sense that the bishop of Rome was seen in the East as the supreme authority in the whole Universal Church.

It is hoped that at the next meetings of the Commission, the Catholic side will agree with this position which is confirmed by numerous historical evidence.

DECR Communication Service

Milica Katanic

I know I haven’t written much about this these past 9 months, but we’ve been expecting our sixth child who, after just one push (the one nurse said she had never seen anything like it), came this morning and – it’s a girl! (our fourth girl; the second “blog” baby, recorded on these pages, see here) at 7 pounds 14.2 oz; 20 1/2 inches.

It’s still amazing to me how exciting the whole thing is. Particularly since I went in this morning, actually in the middle of the night, and kept falling asleep on the chair. You’ve been through the whole process before, you know what to expect, what to do…but then you see the baby and everything stops and you’re completely lost and it’s the newest child and newest experience you’ve ever had.

Thank God everything went well!

The sins of others

I have no real opinion regarding the Bishop Eddie Long scandal. I was watching  a little about it on Fox News and CNN but in the end, whether he’s guilty or innocent, it’s none of my business.  Yet there is something attractive in hearing about the failings and mistakes of others. I can only assume it’s because it, quite simply, has nothing to do with us.  We’re given a chance to play the role of judge. That is, to do that which can ultimately get us in more trouble spiritually than the ones we are foolishly judging.  It is not by mere coincidence then that, after my snooping and reading, I was led to Fr. Ted’s blog and this post he made a few months back (from here).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”  (Romans 6:23).

There is no doubt since Christianity began it taught its members to be holy as God is holy.  This has sometimes been reduced in people’s minds to referring only to morality, but holiness is not just proper external behavior, it also has to do with the state of a person’s heart, and in fact their very being including their relationship with God.  Sometimes Christians reduce the sense of holiness to sexual activity, something which was influenced by ideas presented early on in Christianity by dualists who despised the body and marriage, treating any sexual desire as a disease (St. John Cassian calls it such in his Institutes, though admittedly he is writing for monks not to all Christians).  This abhorrence of anything sexual ultimate denies the goodness of creation and is at odds with the Genesis story of God creating humans male and female as well as with the Gospel truth of the incarnation where Jesus is a male not an androgynous being).  Today, as in every generation of Christianity, we see these ideas manifesting themselves, in our times especially in claims which make homosexuality to be veritably THE unforgivable sin.   In the book IN THE WORLD, OF THE CHURCH, Paul Evdokimov notes:

Berdiaev [Nikolai Berdiaev, a 19th century Russian religious and political philosopher] stressed with reason that the Gospel is infinitely more severe toward wealth, exploitation, and social disorder than toward any sexual failing. The real problem of social obligation has been repressed and replaced by a veritable obsession with matters sexual, even up to our time.  According to the Gospel, it is the rich who will not enter the Kingdom, while repentant prostitutes enter ahead of the righteous and their influence.  ( pg. 87)

We are so often concerned with or obsessed by the sins of others, while holiness tells us when it comes to sin to specifically look at ourselves.   Christianity is a self-denying religion, but only when it comes to sin does it traditionally tell us to look at ourselves and judge rather than looking at and judging others.

Death and taxes…

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain,” said Benjamin Franklin once, “except death and taxes.” There is an interesting article in Vanity Fair about Greece’s economic insanity which amidst tax fraud on a grand scale is deeply concerned and troubled about the affairs of the flourishing Vatopaidi Monastery. I don’t know how accurate of a picture the article gives of the economic situation in Greece and I don’t think I fully understand what the monastery has done wrong. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

Read article here.

“The Church is not the servant of any nation….”

I found this in today’s edition of the Serbian paper Politika (here). Again, translation is quick and loose:

NOT EVERY SERB IS ORTHODOX

With news that Serbian language is now being taught in Fieri, Albania for the Serbs living in that country, we have discovered that in the three surrounding villages more than 500 Serbian families are either of Muslim or Christian faiths. In the motherland, in Serbia, about 85 percent of the population had identified themselves as Orthodox Christians at the last census in 2002  and in some circles Serbdom is  linked with the Orthodox faith, meaning a Serb is only one who is Orthodox. Serbs were not, are not, nor do they have to be exclusively of the Christian Orthodox faith, explains the V. Rev. Stavrophor Zoran Krstic, professor of canon law and Christian sociology at the Orthodox Theological Faculty in Belgrade.

“The absolute identification of faith and nation is a remnant of Turkish rule. The cross-resurrection feat of our Lord Jesus Christ marks the beginning of the existence of the church as a new humanity, a new nation, a new Israel. Christ has redeemed us before God from every race and language, people and tribe. By its nature, therefore, the church is catholic, ecumenical and of a super-national character. It does not divide people by any kind of nation, race, age, gender or  class.  This characteristic of the church does not imply an erasing of the differences between people or between nations. On the contrary, every man and every nation is called to enter the church with their own specific gift,” said V. Rev. Stavrophor Zoran Krstic.

Orthodoxy is an undisputed part of the Serbian national identity and our people keep and develop their national identity as part of their overall identity, inasmuch as they are guided by the foundations of Christian values in their daily lives, said our source.

“We enter the church freely and we exist in it out of our own free will. Freedom of religion is a prerequisite of any healthy religiosity. This means that if Serbs are born as agnostics or atheists, which we have become used to [during communism, ed. note], then they can also, out of their free choice, become Muslims, Buddhists and the like. The question of whether individuals or groups at some point in history were forced to convert to other religions is a question of the sin and crime of others. What is important for us is that we unconditionally respect the religious beliefs of our neighbors even when we disagree with them.  Besides the abuse of freedom of religion, history knows also of the abuses of the church and Christianity for nationalistic and political purposes. Every nation can find its place in the Church but the Church is not the servant of any nation, nor was Christ anyone’s  tribal god.  This sort of abuse was prevalent particularly during the 19th and 20 centuries during the period of the formation of the Balkan states when the young and unstable nations used Orthodoxy for internal integration of the population, but also for external confrontation, and even towards those of the same faith, their Orthodox brothers, expressing first their national and then Orthodox identity,” said Fr. Zoran.

If, for instance, we went with the argument that Serbs are only Orthodox Christians we would be denying ourselves of a part of our history. A little more than 20,000 Serbian Catholics lived in Dalmatia and Boka in the 19 century, mostly in Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar, and their influence was significantly greater than the share in total population, consisting of between three and four percent, says historian Cedomir Antic. He points out that medieval Serbian spread to the coast of Omis, and later to Stona, and so many Serbian coastal regions were at certain periods Catholic, and many of our leaders were Catholic.

“Catholic Serbs were Serbs politically. Their family tradition was Catholic. This went so far that the Austro-Hungarian subject, the Catholic Lujo Bakotic – and not an Orthodox bishop – negotiated a concordat with the Vatican on behalf of the Kingdom of Serbia. Pero Budmani, a philologist, born in Split, fired a revolver at participants of the pogrom demonstrations against Serbia which followed the Sarajevo assassination in 1914.  The assimilation process was allowed by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia which was later accelerated and completed by the communist government after 1945.  Relations were complex, but less tense than they would be today. I do not know if anyone has declared themselves as such in recent times. In Split, the last census counted nine Serbs. In Istra more people identified themselves as Serbs than those who were willing to admit that they spoke Serbian, Antic notes.

Serbian Muslims are, or more accurately, could, logically be members of the Serbian people who at one point in time embraced Islam, said the orientalist Darko Tanaskovic, adding that during the multi century Ottoman rule in the Balkans a large number of Serbs, or rather the Slav population – of which it is reasonable to assume that there were also Serbs – converted to Islam.

“During the creation of modern nations in our region religion has become a key criterion for the separation of those nationalities who are closely related ethnically and linguistically. Therefore, it is almost completely impossible that Serbs become, as Vuk Karadzic had once said, “of all three laws,” which greatly narrowed the scope of the Serbian national (self-) determination. Often contrary to the feelings of Serbs of the Muslim faith, something which was considered natural, and still is, is that Serbs can be exclusively Orthodox, and today atheist as well, but follow Orthodox traditions. Serbian Muslims are, therefore, directed toward national identification with their religious affiliation, or enjoy the national-forming process whose ultimate expression is in the Bosniak nation. Many who were Muslims religiously or cultural-traditionally  feel that they are Serbs nationally, and some prominent figures have recently emphasized this publicly. Statistically, and politically, however, it is irrelevant and often it is seen as a provocation and violation of the established order of things, no matter how humanly authentic it is. Thus the nation is a political formation. Serbian Muslims, as an institutionalized social group, do not exist – says Tanasković, adding that the fact makes the news of “the Serb Muslims” from the surrounding areas of Fieri interesting.

The Difference Between Real and Psychological

Professor Christos Yannaras left today after a two week stay in the US, a guest of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Western America. Unfortunately, I was unable to make any of his talks which were not only in the West Coast but New York and Chicago as well. Below is a piece I found on Orthodoxy Today here.

Towards a New Ecumenism

Today we need a new ecumenism, an ecumenism which will not have as its goal a “dialogue” between traditions and confessions, but rather will manifest a new “coming together” through the encounter of people of any and every tradition and confession. It would be the ecumenism of concrete encounter between those who share a thirst for the life which can conquer death, people who are looking for real answers to the “dead ends” of the civilization in which we live today.

This kind of ecumenism is of great importance for us because we Christians are responsible for these dead ends. The ecumenism of the sixties was something very different. It was an ecumenism whose goal was to give the various traditions and confessions a chance to know each other. Each tradition, each Church, affirmed its convictions and its “theories” in order to develop this mutual knowledge.

In my life I have had many opportunities to speak in such ecumenical gatherings. Those who took part were people who are sometimes called the monstres sacrés of contemporary theology. Forgive me for saying this, but as a rule it was simply impossible to reflect on that fundamental thirst in such a context. We discussed the problems of the third world, of feminism, of individual rights, etc. But, you know, I am a member of the Church because I want to know if one can get hold of, handle, feel that which can conquer death. There are so many different ways of resolving the problems of the third world or contemporary women’s issues, but there is only one promise to truly conquer death — the Church.

I shall use two words — freedom and knowledge — to explain what I mean. Let me begin with freedom. The way in which our modern world understands freedom does not interest me. Freedom is thought of as the possibility of unlimited choice: the ability to choose among different ideas, different convictions, different political parties, newspapers, etc. The right of the individual to unlimited choice. The image, the “icon,” of freedom today is the supermarket. In a supermarket each person can choose for himself — in the utter loneliness of the consumer.

The freedom that interests me is the one which frees us from the constraints of the created world. Let me recall for you Peter’s walking on the water. The disciples are together in a small boat on the lake of Genesareth. The lake is rough, there is a storm, it is night, and the disciples are afraid. Suddenly they see someone coming across the water towards the boat. They are overwhelmed, they are frightened. But the one who is approaching them says: “Do not be afraid. It is I.” It is Jesus. And Peter says: “Lord, if it is really you, let me come to you on the water.” And Christ says to him, “Come.” And Peter steps out of the boat and begins to walk on the water. At that moment he receives his existence not from his own nature, but from his relationship with the Lord. This is the freedom that delivers us from death.

The Church calls us to realize our existence not on the basis of our created and mortal nature, but on an immediate relationship with him who called us from non-being into being. This is the definition of the person: the person is found in that freedom of immediate, existential relationship with God. There is no question here of abstract notions or psychological feelings. What we have here is something real, it is a reality. We exist according to the mode of ecclesial existence when we are able to walk on water, and the whole life of the Church is an ascetic struggle designed to teach us to walk on water. At times one gets the impression that the life of the Church has been changed into an attempt to improve people’s behavior, their character, to enable them to control their passions, etc. Of course, this is all part of the ascetic struggle. But the goal of the struggle is freedom with regard to nature, an ability to live our existence as a realization of love, so as to reach the truth of the person.

The second word I shall use is knowledge. Knowledge as we understand it today — that is, as information — does not interest me. These days the sciences very often seem to observe reality as if while analyzing a painting by van Gogh, for example, one were to say that it consisted of a piece of canvas covered with paint. lt is unable to discover, through the painting, the personhood of the artist. But if one remains at the level of the matter of which the painting is made, then the unique, incomparable character of the person of the painter has not been studied. We can, of course, read biographies of Mozart one after the other. We can increase our knowledge of his life, his work. And yet it is only experience of Mozart’s music which will reveal to us his person.

I want a science which will enable me, through the reality of nature and the study of nature, to come to an understanding of the person of the Creator. I want a knowledge which will go beyond nature so as to arrive at the “otherness” of the divine person, a knowledge which will enable me to communicate with this person. The knowledge of personal “otherness,” the knowledge of the person, is an outburst, an explosion of freedom. Knowledge and freedom cannot be separated, since I must free myself from myself in order to open myself to the other, in order to recognize the “otherness” of the other. I must free myself from all those individualistic, egocentric forms of resistance. This is the only way to achieve freedom: freedom as love and freedom as knowledge. This is why the path to knowledge and freedom and love is the path of ascetic struggle: it is in this way that we free ourselves from the exigencies of the ego. To know the other it is necessary to say goodbye to oneself.

In the experience of the Church we find two ways to carry out this ascetic struggle: the service of men, social activity, and monastic asceticism, where one works to overcome those obstacles, those points of resistance which prevent one from communicating with God and with others. These two paths have in reality the same goal. Evagrius Ponticus defined it very well when he said that the Christian, and above all the monk, is separated from others in order to be united with all. Sadly, in the society in which we live, our manner of living excludes these two paths. We should become aware that we are living a paradox. On the one hand, we declare that we are members of the Church, that is, of a living body, while on the other our situation is such that our daily existence presupposes the absolutization of the individual.

We live today on the basis of the rights of the individual and give an absolute priority to individual consumption. And so even theology has become a knowledge about something. We are filled with information about God. But what defines theology in the Church is concrete knowledge of God himself, the experience of faith, which does not mean the possession of particular individual convictions. In Greek the word “faith” — pistis — still preserves its original sense of confidence, of trust. To have faith means to give oneself, to offer oneself with an absolute trust in God and in that “other” whom we love. The two Gospel figures, the Publican and the Pharisee, are fundamental for an understanding of what I am trying to express by the word “person.” The Pharisee, as a religious type, is satisfied with himself, absolutely faithful to the Law and self-sufficient. He has no need of God. That is why he is excluded from the Kingdom. One other, the Publican, can offer neither virtue nor good works. He is a sinner. He pays no attention to his personal strength, so all he has is his relationship with someone whom he loves. And he gives himself over to that love.

I dream of an ecumenism which will begin with a confession of sins on the part of each Church. If we begin with this confession of our historic sins, perhaps we can manage to give ourselves to each other in the end. We are full of faults, full of weaknesses which distort our human nature. But Saint Paul says that from our weakness can be born a life which will triumph over death. I dream of an ecumenism that begins with the voluntary acceptance of that weakness.

Perhaps you will forget most of what I say. But I would ask that you remember this one sentence: the most difficult thing in one’s personal life I do not mean in one’s spiritual life, but in one’s personal life – is to distinguish between what is real and what is psychological. Our civilization has replaced ontology with psychology. And I do not mean the science of psychology, which has much to tell us. I mean the psychological illusions which we ourselves create, whether through a purely rational approach or through a kind of moral self-satisfaction. We must overcome these idols in order to touch the reality which is truly theological. We must distinguish between what is real and what is psychological so as to be able one day to sing together that by death one can conquer death.

Church Chant – God’s Gift to the Angels

From an article by Bishop Jovan (Puric), Church Chant – God’s Gift to the Angels, that I’m too lazy to translate in its entirety, an excerpt:

THE THEOLOGICAL ELEMENTS OF CHANTING

Chanting is made up of three elements: word, melody and rhythm.

1. Word

It is only man who has been gifted with word, hence he can offer his voice and thereby imitate his creator. St. John Chrysostom says that our word proceeds from our soul just as the Logos proceeds from the Father (Letter to Euthropio, PG 52, 403).

The word also has a social dimension. It is form of communication of one man to another. (See St. John Chrysostom’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, PG 62, 126).

Through words man communicates with God as well. However, we cannot worthily express the divine mystery, hence we resort to chanting (See St. John Chrysostom’s Homily on the Ascension of our Lord, PG 52, 775). St. Nil of Sinai thinks the same: “God must be glorified with words, respected with deeds and worshiped with thoughts” (Sayings, PG 79, 1249c).

2. Melody

In Orthodox chant word and melody are inseparable. The melody enhances the word, the “clothing” of the word. The word expressed through melody says much more than the naked word. But the melody is not an artificial complement but, like the word, proceeds from the human nature, that is, it’s  a gift.

3. Rhythm

God, in creating the world, created the specific rhythm of moving in that world, like the rhythm of time (for example, the shift from day to night, the movement of the planets, etc.). And so rhythm appears as a part of divine harmony, then rhythm reveals the presence of divine beauty in the world. It has it ethical dimensions as well: respecting the divinely established order and participating in it, man conforms with the divine rhythm, that is, he conforms towards God.

Rhythm is inseparable from word and melody.

SONGS AND REVELATION

In the Old Testament there are three different kinds of poetry: song, psalm and hymn.

Song

The song is mentioned for the first time in the book of Exodus, when Moses sings a song of thanksgiving to God for taking them across the Red Sea. This song, besides that of thanksgiving also has a doxological character.

St. Basil the Great calls songs “high theology” (Commentary on Psalm 49, PG 29, 305C), since God’s actions are revealed through song (God’s revelation to the world and man’s response to that revelation).

Psalm

The term psalm is first mentioned in the First Book of Kings (16,18). When Saul was besieged David made him psalms and thereby freed him from the “evil spirit” (here we see a therapeutic dimension of chanting).

Regarding the content, psalms are very similar to songs.

Hymn

Hymns are the third part of chanting and are found very frequently in the Old Testament. The problem with hymns is that they are very difficult to differentiate from both songs and psalms, and so at time they are called thus.

Hymns are of a descriptive and thanksgiving characteristic, and their content is, for the most part, dogmatic. St. Athansius refers to psalms as hymns. (Homily on the suffering and crucifixion of our Lord, PG 28, 193A).