Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A New Blog

I created a new blog today, Other Voices About Orthodoxy. This, together with a Google discussion group by the same name, is sort of a theological experiment. The point is to try and develop a collaborative writing project in which different people come together to write what I someday hope will be a book about Orthodoxy Christianity in an American Context.

If I've got your attention, go over and take a look at what I wrote there and consider participating. Thanks!

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

An Ecumenical Imperative

The Catholic News Agency, among other sources, reports that the recent meeting between His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and His Eminence Metropolitan KYRILL of the Moscow Patriarchate. In published reports, His Eminence describes the meetings as "very positive" and told L'Osservatore Romano, that he left his conversation with His Holiness "with great sentiments of hope."

Given this most recent meeting, as well as what seems to be, in the words of Walter Cardinal Kasper, the general thaw in the relationship between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, I thought I would take this as opportunity to have a very brief conversation about how Orthodox Christians should witness to our faith to those outside the Orthodox Church. As the basis of that conversation, I would like to look a document published in August 2000 by the Jubilee Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church. In this post and subsequent posts, I want to examine the document, "Basic Principles of the Attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church Toward the Other Christian Confessions" (hereafter, BPA). In this document we find articulated for us, and with great clarity, how the Orthodox Church understand her relationship with those Christians outside here visible boundaries. From this we are also able to draw, as I will in subsequent post, concrete directives about how as Orthodox Christians we are to witness our faith to those outside the Church.

Central to BPA is the assertion that the divisions caused by schism are "an open and bleeding wound on the Body of Christ . . . . [that] has become a serious visible distortion of Christian universality, an obstacle in the way of her witness to Christ before the world." This wound effects all of Christendom and especially the Orthodox Church since, as the council fathers write, "the reality of this witness of the Church of Christ depends to a considerable degree on her ability to live up to the truths preached by her in the life and practice of Christian communities." (1.20)

Given the ease with which many Orthodox Christians give themselves over to polemic statements about Roman Catholics, Protestants and Evangelical Christians this statement by the Moscow Patriarchate is extraordinary. For many Orthodox Christians, whose views on these matters boarders on an ecclesiological positivism, the acknowledgement that a divided Christendom is a wound upon the Body of Christ, is tantamount to heresy. Indeed, the text of BPA anticipates this charge when it quotes the Third Pre-Conciliar Panorthodox Conference that met in 1986:

The Orthodox Church, in her profound conviction and ecclesiastical consciousness of being the bearer of and the witness to the faith and tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, firmly believes that she occupies a central place in matters relating to the promotion of Christian unity within the contemporary world …It is the mission and duty of the Orthodox Church to transmit, in all its fullness, the truth contained in the Holy Scripture and the Holy Tradition, the truth which gives to the Church her universal character. The responsibility of the Orthodox Church, as well as her ecumenical mission regarding Church unity, were expressed by the Ecumenical Councils. These, in particular, stressed the indissoluble link existing between true faith and sacramental communion. The Orthodox Church has always sought to draw the different Christian Churches and confessions into a joint search for the lost unity of Christians, so that all might reach the unity of faith.

The Orthodox Church has carried out dialog with Christian communities separated from her for over 200 years. The 1903 statement "Response to the Letter of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate," affirms the necessity of theological dialogue with non-Orthodox confessions and BPA makes its own the central principle of that document that for Orthodox Christians—hiearchs, clergy and laity—"there must be fraternal readiness to help" Christians outside the Orthodox Church. Especially "given the age-old division," that we suffer, we must offer not only "explanations" for what we believe, but also "normal consideration for their best wishes, all possible forbearance towards their natural perplexities, . . . [and] at the same time the firm confession of the truth of our Universal Church as a sole guardian of Christ's heritage and a sole saving ark of divine grace. While bearing in my our "task with regard to them should be. . . to interpret for them our faith and unchangeable conviction that it is only our Eastern Orthodox Church, which has preserved intact the entire pledge of Christ," we must do so "without putting before them unnecessary obstacle for union by being inappropriately intolerant and suspicious." It is only in this way that "the Universal Church," can help our Christian brothers and sisters outside the Church them to "consider and decide upon if they really believe that salvation is bound up with life in the Church and sincerely wish to be united with her."

To be continued....

Catholic Biblical Supersite Now Available

From Teófilo de Jesús at Vivificat! A Catholic Blog of News, Opinion, Commentary and Spirituality this just in:

Folks, the Congregation for the Clergy has opened a new website dedicated to biblical interpretation. The site, Biblia Clerus offers offers "Sacred Scripture, its interpretation in light of Sacred Tradition and the teachings of the Magisterium, with appropriate theological commentary and exegesis." A downloadable version allows the user "to connect Sacred Scripture to the complete works of many Doctors of the Church, Councils, Encyclicals, teachings of the Popes, Catechisms, as well as commentaries from secular literature, etc."

Wow. And then again, wow. This site must be part of our armor of faith. Please access it and add it to your bookmarks. This is the URL: http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerus/index_eng.html
What is most exciting, for me at least, is that the entire site can be downloaded. This includes not only a wealth of resources in English, but also Hebrew, Greek, and Latin as well as French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

This site is a great blessing for those interested in biblical studies as well as spiritual ecumenism. Understanding how we understand Scripture--and especially seeing our common sources for our different understandings--is an important part of fostering reconciliation in divided Christendom.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

P.S., I've added FoxyTunes, Now Playing Signature, for those interested in the music I listen to. Yes, I like the Pogues.

Now playing: The Pogues - Dirty Old Town
via FoxyTunes