Monday, June 30, 2008

Orthodoxy: A Fertile Faith?

A 6th century mosaic of :en:Jesus at Church San Apollinare Nuovo in :en:Ravenna, :en:Italy. (Originally taken from here.Image via WikipediaJohn Couretas at the American Orthodox Institute blog (a most excellent blog, might I add--do take a look at it!) raises the question of Orthodox Christian witness in the political realm:

When a recent coffee hour conversation turned, unexpectedly, to politics and what if anything the Church has to say about public issues and then all of the “God talk” in the current presidential contest, a friend said, “Oh, that’s politics. The Orthodox Church shouldn’t get involved in politics. Nothing good can come of it.”
Well, yes and no.
He continues by explaining that "If we’re talking about partisan politics then yes, of course, the Church must stay out of it. The Church was not founded to endorse candidates for office or advance a political ideology. But if we’re talking about the political dimensions of important moral issues, then yes, of course, the Church may quite properly speak to these."While I agree with the basic thrust behind his comments, I think the example he offers, the 2003 "Statement on Moral Crisis on Our Nation" issued by Standing Conference Orthodox Bishops of America is an unfortunate one.I read the statement by SCOBA, both when it came out and again in response to the post on AOI. Both the first time and now again, I found it lacking in how well in responded to the actual argument made by the proponents of same sex marriage.Yes certainly, "Moral Crisis," accurately summarized the Orthodox understanding of marriage but it fails to address the central question: Should the state sanction same sex marriages or not? As written the statement is not even clear as to the answer to this most fundamental question.
Yes the bishops express their "deep concern over recent developments." And yes, they tell us that they "pray fervently that the traditional form of marriage, as an enduring and committed union only between a man and a woman, will be honored." But they fail to say what the state should do in response to the desire for some to extend marriage to same sex couples. Given that the recent Pew Charitable Trust survey suggest, many Orthodox Christians do not think with the Church on this question, it becomes not only politically, but pastorally imperative, that the Church respond more clearly to those who would challenge and even reject, the "divine purpose" of marriage.
The statement also fails in my reading of it to respond to the fact that in the eyes of many, the "normalize, legalize and even sanctify same-sex unions" is no way a betrayal of marriage as either a religious or civil institution. The rhetoric is quite the opposite; for those who advocate same sex marriage,extending marriage to a new class of citizens through its legalization is presented as a strengthening of marriage as a cultural, and indeed religious and specifically Christian, institution.Appealing to the Constitutional separation of church and state, advocates of smae-sex marriage argue that (as with abortion rights) changes in the law will in no way infringe on either the rights of those who oppose same-sex marriage or represents an assault on the traditional understanding of marriage. They simply wish to extend a legal right to the disenfranchised. The bishops' statement, appealing as it does simply to Orthodox faith and practice, fails to respond to the actually argument that the legalization of same-sex marriage is matter of social justice.In failing to respond, the statement concedes the issue and leaves the reader with the impression that the Church has nothing to contribute to the debate past that which pertains to our own narrowly defined interests.The bishops' statement leaves a number of issues unaddressed, it is in it conclusion that it fails most. By not engaging the arguments made by the advocates of same-sex, the statement does nothing to change the terms of the debate.While there is a laudable attempt to reach out pastorally to homosexuals ("persons with a homosexual orientation are to be cared for with the same mercy and love that is bestowed by our Lord Jesus Christ upon all of humanity. All persons are called by God to grow spiritually and morally toward holiness.) it does so in language that it could used, and in fact is often used, by any advocate of same sex marriage.I agree with your thesis that Orthodox social witness is lacking.
But when, as with the SOCBA statement you referenced, we do make a statement it is hard for me to shake the thought that (however inadvertently) we are presenting ourselves as merely one pressure among others. While there is nothing dogmatically or ethically unsound in the statement, as a whole it reads (to me at least) more as a pro forma sectarian statement then a prophetic witness to the Gospel.Save for the fact that I am an Orthodox Christian who takes his faith and the teaching office of the bishops seriously–the statement offers me no reason to take seriously the teaching it is putting forward.If we are to speak to the ethical concerns of the day, we must learn to do so in a idiom that can touch the hearts and minds of men and women of good will. Truth be told, we probably would do well to begin with making sure that our own faithful, and especially our lay leaders and clergy are themselves committed to the Church's moral witness. We have not done the former, and I suspect we have also left undone the latter.In Christ,
+Fr Gregory
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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fidelity to Our Calling: The Example of SS Peter & Paul

Sunday, June 29, 2008, 2nd SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST —All Saints of America (All Saints of Russia). THE HOLY GLORIOUS AND ALL-PRAISED LEADERS OF THE APOSTLES, PETER AND PAUL (ca. 67 A.D.).

And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.
At the first moment of our life, in fact before that first moment, there is divine grace and the call of Christ to us. I am because I am called.

The Gospel for the feast of SS Peter and Paul offers us a glimpse, a brief account, of the call of not only the Apostle Peter, but also his brother Andrew. Thinking about this the thought that comes to mind is that while we are all of us called personally and to a unique ministry within the Body of Christ, we are not any of us called individually, in isolation or apart from others. Yes, we are each of us called, but we are called as part of a community that existed before us and that will continue after us—and so Christ calls not simply Peter but his brother Andrew as well.

As the story in Gospel unfolds—and it unfolds quickly, almost too quickly—we discover that not only are Peter and Andrew called together, but that (as I said a moment ago) they are called to a specific ministry or life of service in the Body of Christ. These two men are told by Jesus that they are to follow Him and become "fishers of men." It is worth noting that they will become evangelists not primarily through their own efforts.  Rather this is something in to which Jesus will make them. Fishermen will be made into fisher of men in much the same way that bread and wine are made into the Body and Blood of Christ--at the command of the Father, through Jesus Christ, and by the power and operation of the Holy Spirit.

We get a sense of the importance of the office to which Peter and Andrew are called in a sermon attributed to St John Chrysostom: "Before He spoke or did anything, Christ called Apostles." Why did Jesus do this? So "that neither word nor deed of His should be hid from their knowledge, so that they may afterwards say with confidence, 'What we have seen and heard, that we cannot but speak.'" (Ac 4,20) While there are different ways in which this is accomplished, while each person does so in his or her own way and in the unique circumstances of their daily life, we are all of us called—like the first apostles—to first witness and the bear witness to the words and deeds of Jesus Christ. To be a Christian is before all else to be a witness to Jesus Christ in all that I say and do.  And I do so not only for my salvation, but for yours and for the life of the world.

One of the great obstacles to fulfilling our vocation to witness to Jesus Christ is simply this: So many of us do not know that we have been to be a witness. And in the main we do not know because, as the other apostle who we remember today said (Rom 10:14-15):

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!" (compare, Isaiah 52:7; Nahum 1:15)
While on the one hand the whole of the tradition of the Church, Scripture, the sacraments, the Councils, the fathers and the lives and teaching of the saints, all point to our personal call toof often the clergy fail in our obligation to help the laity (and I dare say our brother clergy) first hear their own unique call and the act on that call within the circumstances of their daily life. If, as a recent survey, suggests, the vast majority of the Orthodox faithful live lives that while morally sound are only marginally related to Christ and His Church it is the clergy who must bear the first measure of responsibility. Again, as the Apostle Paul writes, "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?"

As I said a moment ago, while we are each called personally, we are none of us called alone. Rather we are called as a member of a community. And this is where maybe we encounter the second obstacle to fulfilling our vocation: We are often prone to deny that our vocation is always fulfilled communally. We deny this by trying artificially to limit our Christian life to only one area of our life. I am always tempted to narrow the focus of my Christian life to an area I designate "religious" or "spiritual."

Looking back at the call of Simon-Peter and Andrew we see that trying to divide up my life in separate and unrelated compartments is simply the wrong way to go. Again in a sermon attributed to St John Chrysostom we read that for Peter and Andrew, "The operations of their secular craft were a prophecy of their future dignity. As he who casts his net into the water knows not what fishes he shall take, so the teacher casts the net of the divine word upon the people, not knowing who among them will come to God. Those whom God shall stir abide in his doctrine."

Yes, they were apostles and witnesses because they were called and formed by Christ. But they are such not simply because of God's election. They were also called and formed by their father whose nets they abandoned to follow Jesus Christ.

And it is not only their father who prepared them to be apostles.

There were the other men and boys with whom they fished. There were their teachers who instructed them in the Law. And of course, their mother who bore them, nursed and feed them, and one day watched as their boys became men and, now as men, left their father and his nets to follow an itinerate preacher.

What the apostles did, they did by divine grace and their own effort. While these are not the same, neither is unnecessary and neither undoes they need and contribution of all those other men and women who helped Peter and Andrew along the way.

Though we looked at all this through the lives of Peter and Andrew all of this is just as true of the other disciple of Christ we remember today, the Apostle Paul. Of himself he says (Acts 22.3), "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today." But unlike Peter, Paul began his relationship with Christ as His persecutor: "I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished." (vv. 4-5)

But like Peter, there comes a moment when his self-imposed isolation, and the violent hatred and anger it fostered in him, comes to an end:

Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" So I answered, "Who are You, Lord?" And He said to me, "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting." (vv. 6-8)
If the end of Saul's isolation is announced more dramatically than Peter's, end it does for both men. And as Peter joins with Andrew to follow Christ, Paul begins his own discipleship with Ananias, by whose hand he is baptized and healed of his physical and spiritual blindness (Acts 9:17-18):

And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
Again like Peter, following Christ means for Paul that he travels not alone, but in the company of the Church: "So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus." (v. 19)

Peter and Paul were different men—they were in many ways very different kinds of men. One, Peter, was a fisherman, poorly educated, and was no one of consequence in the Jewish community in which he lived. Paul, though a tent maker by trade, was also a scholar, an educated man, a Pharisee and the intimate of scholars and a trusted agent of those among the Jews who had power.

Peter found Paul's words "hard to understand," and, in the hands of "untaught and unstable people" liable to be "twist[ed] to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." (2 Peter 3:15) As Peter had his reservations (however charitably worded) about Paul, he was also not exempt from an even harsher criticism by Paul (Gal 2:11-21):

Now when Peter[a] had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, "If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing 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. "But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain."
Yet for all their differences and criticisms of each other, both men were disciples of Jesus Christ and faithful to the point of death in their commitment to Christ, His Church and each other.

It is this respect and support of the vocation of others that, I think, is at the heart of fidelity to our own vocation. Just as none of us is called alone or can live the Christian life alone, so to can none of us live that vocation faithfully, authentically, for ourselves alone. Just as Christ is "God With Us" (Mt 1:23) and even God for us (Jn 1:1-18), so too fidelity to our own vocation—in whatever form it takes—means that we must live lives with and for others. First this means with and for our brothers and sisters in Christ—beginning with our families and the parish, and moving outward in ever larger concentric circles. And second this means we must live with and for the whole human—again beginning with those who are closest to us and moving ever outward to the limits of our own unique calling.

If we do this, if we are faithful to our own vocation, our own calling with all that it entails in its preparation and enactment, then the angels together with the saints in heaven and on earth will sing of us the words the sing of Peter and Paul:

Thou hast taken the firm and divinely inspired Preachers, O Lord, the leading Apostles, for the enjoyment of Thy blessings and for repose. For Thou hast accepted their labours and death as above every burnt offering, O Thou Who alone knowest the secrets of our hearts.
(Kontakion for the feast of SS Peter & Paul)
In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Leonard Cohen Singing "Hallelujah"

Having not head his music for, well a very long time, I thought I would post a video of Leonard Cohen singing "Hallelujah."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Psychology Crossroads

As I have mentioned here before, I am a member of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS). Affiliated with CAPS is Psychology Crossroads "a community for those interested in the integration of Christianity and psychology and related mental health disciplines." I think Orthodox Christians, and really anyone else, who is interested in not only issues of psychology and Christianity but also spiritual formation and pastoral care would find both groups interesting and a good resource. Why not take a look at one or both?

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

View my page on Psychology Crossroads

Iconography Workshop, Canton OH: 3-10 August 2008

There are still openings for the fifth annual iconography workshop, to be held at St George Romanian Catholic Cathedral in Canton, Ohio, August 3-10. This is an intensive class in icon painting/writing for beginners. The instructor, Daniel Nicholas, will teach, step by step, the process for creating a hand-painted icon, and supply all materials.

It is a great time; part retreat, part art class, and part summer camp.

The cost is $250, with $50 due with registration.

If you are interested, please call the instructor, Daniel Nichols: 330 837 0534.

Unless noted otherwise, everything posted here is © 2008 Gregory R Jensen.

St Augustine: “Of the Co-Existence of Good and Evil in the Church

c. 1300Image via Wikipedia

One of the most vexing problems in our spiritual lives is the moral failings, and even outright wickedness, of our fellow Christians. This is especially painful when it is our fathers in Christ who fail or worse betray us.

We are all of us prone in our pain to think that ours is the first generation to suffer this but we are not. Precisely because of the damage it can do, St Augustine address this issue in his treatise On the Catechising of the Uninstructed, [De Catechizandis Rudibus]. So, I offer for your reflection and comment Augustine's reflections of the presence of good and evil individuals in the Church.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

From St Augustine, On the Catechising of the Uninstructed, [De Catechizandis Rudibus], Chapter 19, "Of the Co-Existence of Good and Evil in the Church, and Their Final Separation."

31. Neither ought we to be moved by the consideration that many consent unto the devil, and few follow God; for the grain, too, in comparison with the chaff, has greatly the defect in number. But even as the husbandman knows what to do with the mighty heap of chaff, so the multitude of sinners is nothing to God, who knows what to do with them, so as not to let the administration of His kingdom be disordered and dishonored in any part. Nor is the devil to be supposed to have proved victorious for the mere reason of his drawing away with him more than the few by whom he may be overcome. In this way there are two communities— one of the ungodly, and another of the holy— which are carried down from the beginning of the human race even to the end of the world, which are at present commingled in respect of bodies, but separated in respect of wills, and which, moreover, are destined to be separated also in respect of bodily presence in the day of judgment. For all men who love pride and temporal power with vain elation and pomp of arrogance, and all spirits who set their affections on such things and seek their own glory in the subjection of men, are bound fast together in one association; nay, even although they frequently fight against each other on account of these things, they are nevertheless precipitated by the like weight of lust into the same abyss, and are united with each other by similarity of manners and merits. And, again, all men and all spirits who humbly seek the glory of God and not their own, and who follow Him in piety, belong to one fellowship. And, notwithstanding this, God is most merciful and patient with ungodly men, and offers them a place for penitence and amendment.

Read the rest here: Of the Co-Existence of Good and Evil in the Church, and Their Final Separation

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Mark Twain in "Chapters from My Autobiography," popularized the saying that serves as the title for this post: "Figures often beguile me particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'" Twain's comments come to my mind as I thought about the recent report on religious observance in America published by the Pew Charitable Trust, The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.

Let me first say that I think that statistical studies can be of great value in helping researchers see patterns in human behavior, for example, that are not immediately apparent. As with ever tool, however, statistical research can only do what it can do. One of the limitations of something like the recent Pew Charitable Trust survey (PCTS) is that while it allows us to compare different religious groups in some areas (specifically behavioral), it does a rather spotty job in helping us understand the thinking that may, or may not, underlie and motivate that behavior.

So, for example, according to the PCTS roughly one third (34%) of Orthodox Christians report attend church on an at least weekly basis. Looking at the survey this is less than the national average of all religions (39%) and indeed less than Evangelical Christians (58%), members of historic black churches (59%), Catholics (42%), Jehovah Witnesses (82%) and Mormons (75%). At least in terms of weekly church attendance Orthodox Christians are on a par with mainline Protestants (also 34%). The only people less active on a weekly basis in their religious tradition are "Other Christians" (27%), Jews (16%), Buddhist (17%), Hindus (24%), Other Faiths (14%) and the religious unaffiliated (5%).

To understand what these statistics mean for the pastoral life of the Orthodox Church we would need to know whether or not Orthodox weekly participation in services has increased or decreased over long term. Given the similarity between Orthodox Christian and Mainline Protestant attendance, I would suspect that our attendance rates have in fact gone done as they have for most Mainline Protestant communities.

Even with historical information we would next have to ask why Orthodox Christians participate at the levels that they do.

The survey question that sought to determine the importance of religion in a person's life tells us that 87% of Orthodox Christians surveyed report that religion (and here I am assuming this means the Orthodox faith) is very important (56%) or somewhat important (31%) in their lives. There first thing that should be apparent is the huge gap between the percentage of Orthodox Christians who say that their faith is important to them (87%) and the number of Orthodox Christians who attend Liturgy on at least a weekly basis (34%). Whatever else their faith might mean to them, it does not necessarily embrace the regular participation in the liturgical life of the Church.

Based on my own pastoral experience (which until fairly recently was primarily within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America) I would be hesitant to conclude that for most, or even many, Orthodox Christians religion is a private or individual matter. Rather I would wonder if the locus of religious life rather than being the Church's liturgical worship is not rather the nuclear and extended families and culture. In such a social context, a context I hasten to add the PCTS does not explore, religious commitment is less a matter of What I Do and more Who We Are. My own pastoral experience seems to bear this out. Based on my admittedly more limited experience with non-Greek Orthodox Christians as well as my conversations with Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic clergy and faithful, what I would term a familial/cultural orientation is more common in Eastern Christianity than among most Evangelical Christians.

The work of sociologist Peter Berger offers us some insight here to what this data might mean for the pastoral life of the Orthodox Church. Berger argues that society—be it a religious society such as the Church, or a secular society, such as US culture, is both an objective and a subjective reality. Together with Brigitte Berger and Hansfried Kellner The Homeless Mind, Berger is interested in the explication of "the relationships between certain institutional processes . . . and certain constellations of consciousness" (p. 97). To accomplish this task they introduce two constructs, package and carrier. A "package" is a specific mode of consciousness. For example, "it is probably safe to assume that people working on complicated machinery in a factory should not go into trances." Consequently, training people to work in a factory demands that one cultivate in them "an anti-trance attitude [while] on the job." To do this, one must structure the work situation so that not going into a trance is both possible and desirable. For this to happen one needs a very specific "carrier," of consciousness; carriers lend credibility to various "packages" of consciousness. "Put differently, any kind of consciousness is plausible only in particular social circumstances." (pp. 16, 17)

Looked at in terms of packages and carriers, I would suggest that, at least in America, many Orthodox Christians are more similar to mainline Protestants than Evangelical Christians in their approach to religion. It is not liturgy, and the participation in liturgy, that lends credibility to one's identity or self-awareness as an Orthodox Christian. Rather, for many, indeed most, it is family and culture that lends credibility to one's identity as an Orthodox Christian.

In my next few posts I want to draw out more fully the implications of family and culture rather than liturgy as the carrier of a person's self-image as an Orthodox Christian.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Urgent Prayer Request

His Grace Bishop MAXIM of the Western American Diocese urges all of our Orthodox faithful to offer prayers for the protection of the St. Herman of Alaska Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Platina, California. Wild fires are quickly approaching the Monastery grounds and the Monastery is in great danger of being burned down. The Monastic Community has been evacuated and are seeking refuge in the neighboring parish of Redding, California.

Unless noted otherwise, everything posted here is © 2008 Gregory R Jensen.
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In 1930 I was quite the catch


As a 1930s husband, I am
Very Superior

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Unless noted otherwise, everything posted here is © 2008 Gregory R Jensen.


After a brief outage, I'm back. Sorry for the lack of posts and the broken URL--everything is working again and I hope to have the new URL up and running soon.

So in honor my blog's return, I offer the following for your consideration and comment:

H/T Rachel Lucas.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Unless noted otherwise, everything posted here is © 2008 Gregory R Jensen.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thoughts In A Coffee Shop on Sunday Afternoon

While the post title is at least a bit poetic, the same cannot be said for my thoughts.

Today will be a very long day for me. I left the house at 7 this morning and hope to be home by midnight tonight. Some days are just like that I guess.

I've spent the last hour or so catching up on the emails that have stacked up on me this week.

This is a good thing I think.

My wife Mary tells me that correspondence is a very valuable part of my work as a priest. At first I wasn't certain I agreed with her—but I've come to see more and more the value of correspondence, and really writing in general, in my own ministry and for me personally.

While I haven't always been the smartest kid in the room, I have usually have been able to think faster than the smartest kid in the room could. Actually, I could usually even talk faster than the smartest kid could think. And while I'm better, I think I'm better anyway, I can be intellectually just this side of aggressive.

Writing is good because it slows me down—it helps me become more deliberate. And because I put my thoughts down on "paper" (okay, a computer screen) it's easier for me to see my msitkese, I mean my mistakes.

It's odd really, but though the Orthodox Church has an amazing tradition of what in the West is called contemplative prayer, we often seem to value the business of the intellect more than the inner stillness of the Hesychast. Speaking with two inquirers this morning I mentioned that the intellect, reason in both its practical and speculative modes, is given to us to guard the heart. Too often I think I have allowed instead the intellect to lead my heart.

This isn't a good thing at all.

Allowing being lead by my intellect is like letting a junkyard dog slip his leash or jump the fence. A guard dog is only useful when it is properly limited and even restrained. So too the intellect needs to be kept within its proper limits as the guardian of the heart.

Left unguarded, the heart will embrace anything, it will allow anything, any notion no matter how aberrant to take root and grow. When this happens then I am deformed not simply in the core of my being, but from the core of my being. This illness is profoundly crippling. Untreated, it becomes increasingly more difficult to heal, worse still even then a life lived from the intellect.

Princess Illeana (later, Mother Alexandria) writes:

And Jesus taught that all impetus, good and bad, originates in men's hearts. "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh" (Luke 6:45).

The intellect serves to keep sinful images from being planted in the heart. But to abstain from sin, while good, isn't enough.

I need to cry out to God in prayer. One way to do this is by reciting the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner"). St. Hesychois the Priest says that "'The more rain falls on the earth, the softer it makes it; similarly, Christ's holy name gladdens the earth of our heart the more we call upon it." In the oldest traditions of the Church what is important are not the words of the prayer, but that we cry out frequently, in good times and bad, to Christ and ask for mercy.

It is somewhat ironic that, in some circles at least, the Jesus Prayer and the trappings of what people imagine to be monasticism, have become less a living experience and more a mere idea. For many, a life of inner quiet has become an ideology, one rich with trappings and affectations to be sure, but one without existential, personal, substance.

What does it say about my commitment to Christ and the Gospel if I can't find inner quiet and stillness in the coffee shop in the middle of a busy Sunday? Not that I won't have busy, stressful days, I will. But if being busy and being stressed become the whole story of my life, or even my day or hour, well then I think I have to say I've fallen rather short of the ideal.

Liturgy, personal prayer, asceticism, all of these we do to soften the heart as St Hesychois says.

And the sign of a softened heart? St Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part.

But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor 13).

The true test of my inner stillness, my commitment to Christ and the Gospel, is found in charity.

And if I cannot still my own anxious strivings and intellectual speculations on a busy Sunday afternoon in a coffee shop, so that I can practice charity, or at least not offend against it, can I really say that I have even begun to live the life of faith?

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

July Meeting of the Society of St John Chrysostom



"Current Possibilities (and Drawbacks) of Online Ecumenism:

Relations between East and West."


Tuesday, July 8, 2008 at St. Nicholas Catholic Church,

764 Fifth Street, Struthers, Ohio

7 P.M.


(Twins: Saints Cosmas and Damian)

Speakers: David and Jonathan Bennett, Teachers and Writers

(Twin Brothers)



(FOR INFORMATION CALL: 330-755-5635)

Let Not My Love Be Small

Sunday, June 22, 2008: Today's commemorated feasts and saints... 1st SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST — Tone 8. All Saints. Hieromartyr Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata (380). Martyrs Zeno and his servant, Zenas, of Philadelphia (304). Martyrs Galacteon, Juliana, and Saturninus, of Constantinople. St. Alban, Protomartyr of Britain (ca. 287). Hieromartyr Nicetas of Remesiana (414-420). Martyr Nicetas the Dacian (370-372). St. Grigorie Dascalu, Metropolitan of Walachia (Romania).

Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. Then Peter answered and said to Him, "See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?" So Jesus said to them, "Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

(Mt `10:32-33, 37-38; 19:27-30)

For St John Chrysostom (Homily XXXV) Jesus' command to us that we not love our family more than Him, are first and foremost words of great kindness. They speak to us "just at the point [in our life] where love is most tempted to hinder" us. For this reason Jesus counsels fathers "to greater gentleness and children greater freedom." For parents, and really anyone in authority, this gentleness of spirit is essential lest they "attempt what is impossible" by their unwise assumption "that their love of their children can be rightly compared with their [children's] love of God." Likewise, children (and all those under obedience) must take care lest they give to parents (or those in authority over them) the love that should be given to God alone. Again, as St John says, Jesus "instructs the children not to attempt what is impossible by seeking to make their love of parents greater than their love of God."

For children to love their parents as if they were God, or for parents to ask their children to love us as if they were God is more than simply offensive to God. In both cases, we desire either is to desire something that will frustrate us and will lead to the degradation of us and those we so imprudently love. Or, to use Chrysostom's word, it is to desire something which is simply "impossible." Contrary to what we might think it is impossible not because we cannot love each other rightly. No the real impossibility is our attempt to turn love against itself. To attempt this is to ruin "both the beloved himself, and the lover."

The thing about love is that it is not only an expression of my heart, love changes my heart. Simply put, I become like what I love AND I become how I love. Both the object of my love and the way in which I express my love shapes my character. For this reason is always tempting to love in small measures, to love in such a way that my heart is never change. It is always tempting for me to love today within the limits of how I loved yesterday, to keep my love small.

But a small love is a dying love. If I limit my love, I limit myself. In the final analysis, love that does not give everything, gives nothing. And so Jesus tells His disciples, "he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me." And so, Chrysostom tells us in the sermon quoted above, Jesus tells us "not even simply to hate" our life. No He commands us "to expose it to war, and to battles, and to slaughters, and blood." In saying this Jesus tells us that discipleship requires from us "not merely that we must stand against death, but also against a violent death; and not violent only, but ignominious too."

Speaking of Peter's challenge to Jesus, Chrysostom (Homily LXIV) says Jesus "seems to me here to intimate also the persecutions. For since there were many instances both of fathers urging their sons to ungodliness, and wives their husbands; when they command these things, saith He, let them be neither wives nor parents, even as Paul likewise said, 'But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart.'" ( 1 Cor. 7. 15) This theme of self-sacrifice and martyrdom is precisely what the Church puts before us in the hymnography for today's celebration of the Feast of All Saints. For example, we have the troparion for the day:

Clothed as in purple and fine linen with the blood of your Martyrs throughout the world, your Church cries out to you through them, Christ God: Send down your pity on your people; give peace to your commonwealth, and to our souls your great mercy.

The fact of the matter is, love will always require of me a willingness to embrace martyrdom. Why? While it is always I who love, while love is always a personal act, always really and truly mine, love is not mine alone. To love is not only bear witness to God, it is also to participate in the life of God. In human words and deeds, our love makes manifest the divine life and this always requires from me that I subordinate my life to God.

Among the fathers no one is more aware of what it means to love rightly than as St Augustine of Hippo. And there is no one among the fathers who is as aware of the harm of done by a disordered love. In one of his sermons (Sermon 65A.5), Augustine imagines the following bit of dialog:

Let a father say, "Love me." Let a mother say, "Love me." To these words I will say, "Be silent." But isn't what they are asking for just? Shouldn't I give back what I have received? The father says, "I fathered you." The mother says, "I bore you." The father says, "I educated you." The mother says. "I fed you." . . . Let us answer our father and mother when they justly say "love us." Let us answer, "I will love you in Christ, not instead of Christ. You will be with me in Him, but I will not be with you without Him." "But we don't care for Christ," they say. "And I care for Christ more than you. Should I obey the ones who raised me and lose the One Who created me?"

The challenge before us is to not without hold our love from others, but to learn to love one another rightly. This will, necessarily it seems, put us in conflict not only with the powerful in this life, but also with those with whom we are most intimate, and (in the final analysis) ourselves.

And yet there is no other way to love. To love someone simply according to my own desires or theirs, is to love not the person, but my own fantasy of the person. It is, in other words, to worship an idol of my own creation.

Their idols are silver and gold,

The work of men's hands.

They have mouths, but they do not speak;

Eyes they have, but they do not see;

They have ears, but they do not hear;

Noses they have, but they do not smell;

They have hands, but they do not handle;

Feet they have, but they do not walk;

Nor do they mutter through their throat.

Those who make them are like them;

So is everyone who trusts in them. (Psalm 115:4-8)

I said a moment ago, love is not only self-expressive, it forms us after the image of what we love. As David reminds us in the Psalms, if we love an idol, if we love the works of our own hands, then we will become dead things like them. Our love, if it is to be true and life giving, cannot be small in either its object or our commitment. And isn't this what Christ tells us is the greatest commandments of the Law: "So he answered and said, 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and 'your neighbor as yourself.'" (Luke 10:27)

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Saturday, June 21, 2008


Koinonia as its own url: It should be all up and running by Monday. I apologize for any outages.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Unless noted otherwise, everything posted here is © 2008 Gregory R Jensen.

Thoughts on Some Recent Comments

The recent posting of an article by Deacon Keith Fournier, ("Is There a Breakthrough in Orthodox and Catholic Relations?") seems to have generated what is, for this blog anyway, quite a stir. If you are so inclined you can read the comments here. Deacon Fournier's article is in response to a suggestion by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew that it might be possible for Eastern Catholics to enter a "dual unity" in which they remain in communion with both Rome and Constantinople ("Orthodox leader suggests "dual unity" for Eastern Catholics"). The comments generated by that post can be read here.

As one commentator, John Hogg, has pointed out we have precocious few details as to what His All Holiness does and doesn't mean by this suggestion. All we do have is one rather brief news report. In that report Patriarch Bartholomew comments that "the people at the grass roots have to come together again" even while theologians on both sides still explore the theological differences between the two Churches. While I cannot claim to know what is in the Patriarch's heart, it would seem (in answer to Ilyas Wan Wei Hsien question) that there has been some back away from comments made in a speech at Georgetown University where His All Holiness described the differences between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches as ontological in nature. To the best of my knowledge neither in that speech nor subsequently has anyone offered any clarification of what exactly these differences in being might entail.

All of this is to come around to my being in fundamental agreement with the observation made by Michael Skarpa. His words are worth quoting here at length:

One of the first steps toward the restoration of unity among us should be a removal of these misunderstandings. That seems straightforward, but it isn't all that simple because many Catholics do not know the Catholic doctrine, and I suppose the same applies to the Orthodox. I suggest that no individual, whether Orthodox or Catholic, can claim that his grasp of the faith of the Church to which he claims to belong, is ipso facto an authentic expression of that faith. (We would make only one and rare exception: the Pope ex cathedra.) We can only make an effort to come closer to an authentic grasp of the faith of the Church, and continuously keep our minds open to a better and deeper understanding of that faith, fully conscious that in that understanding we are not infallible; in other words, we have to be ready humbly to admit a mistake if we realize it, and never rule it out if we do not realize it.

So, we are faced with a prospect of trying to grasp the faith of "another party" while not sure of our own; learn from others who themselves are not sure or their own; convey our grasp of our faith to others and make sure that they grasp it in the same way; and they have to make sure that their grasp of our faith is identical to our grasp of it. Not simple as it first appears.

Like the Church of Rome, the Orthodox Church believes "in One holy catholic and apostolic church." And again both Churches would argue that "Oneness is an essential, not accidental mark. It is so compelling, that it requires from us to 'inquire not just about the defensibility of union, but even more urgently about the defensibility of remaining separate, for it is not unity that requires justification but the absence of it' (Ratzinger 1982). And so, he concludes

Our Lord prayed that we all be one, while the present state of affairs is, evidently, contrary to His will. It is a scandal to the non-Christian and non-believing world, obstacle to spreading His Gospel, and what we believe to be another essential mark of the Church, her universality, catholicity, is less evident than it would be if all those who should belong to her by Baptism were fully integrated into her visible structure.

While Catholic and Orthodox Christians disagree about the locus of the Church's unity ("we" think we are the One True Church, "they" think they are), we would, I assume, agree that divisions among Christians is contrary to both the command of Christ and harmful to the Church's evangelical mission. That Catholics think the Orthodox left, and the Orthodox think the Catholics left, is certainly important. But we do not have to agree on that point to nevertheless agree that our lack of unity is unacceptable.

Going back to something I mentioned above, we simply do not have sufficient information about the content, and context, of His All Holiness suggestion of the possibility of a dual unity for Eastern Catholics. News reports provide neither a fuller explanation of what His All Holiness has in mind nor are we told what conversations, if any, he has had with Orthodox and Catholic leaders. When I add to this what is often the sorry state of catechetical knowledge among Catholic and Orthodox Christians I wonder what we are REALLY talking about.

Reports like these reveal—contrary to what we might wish to believe—that there is no unanimity among the respective faithful of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches on ecumenicism. We disagree not only across traditional lines, but even among ourselves about the question of how the reconciliation of the Churches is to come about. For what I suspect are catechetical and spiritual reasons we suffer from not only rather serious inter-ecclesial divisions and disagreements, but intra-ecclesial ones as well.

What I have noticed (and this is true for both Catholic and Orthodox apologists) is that many people assume that when reconciliation between the Churches happens it will look essentially like what we see when an individual is reconciled to one Church or the other. In other words, we assume—wrongly I would suggest—that the Roman Catholic Church reuniting with the Orthodox Church will happen pretty much the way it does when an individual Roman Catholic joins the Orthodox Church. Roman Catholics, I hasten to add, quite often hold to an equally individualistic model—as if the reconciliation of well over 25% of the world's population will be just like what happens at St Sophia Orthodox Church or St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church one Holy Saturday.

Folks, whatever it might look like, it probably won't look like that if for no other reason than economy of scale.

Finally, whether I am Orthodox or Catholic, need to be careful of setting myself up as the arbiter in these matters. I may agree, I may disagree, but I am not my Church's standard of orthodoxy.

The last several days I have been exploring the psychology of polemics and apologetics. One of the points that I am making, and I will develop this more in the coming week, is that theological conversations and disputations are as potentially marred by my passions as any other part of my life. To help me be mindful of my own sinfulness in these conversations, I ask myself what would a third party make of my conversation? If I can't be morally certain that a third party would find me a credible witness to the Gospel it might be better if I remain silent.

Again, as always, thank you to everyone for your questions and comments.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Bishop N. T. Wright on the Colbert Report

New Testament scholar and Anglican Bishop N. T. Wright on the Colbert Report.

Hmmmm, I wonder, any chance of getting an Orthodox bishop on with Colbert?

In all seriousness though, one of the things I found most helpful in Bishop Wright's presentation is not simply the provocative content, but the winsome manner of his presentation. Too often Orthodox Christians are often so serious that we forget that JOY is part of the Gospel.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Unless noted otherwise, everything posted here is © 2008 Gregory R Jensen.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Is There a Breakthrough in Orthodox and Catholic Relations?

Is There a Breakthrough in Orthodox and Catholic Relations?
By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online Has the Patriarch of Constantinople proposed a path toward communion between Eastern Catholics and their Orthodox brethren? Could it be a breakthrough?
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) – Reports are circulating, in circles which are intensely attuned to the continued warming of relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, of a statement and proposal allegedly made by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

If they are confirmed, it may signal a major move toward communion between Eastern Catholics and their Orthodox Brethren.It may also open the path to dialogue on communion between the Churches even wider.

The Religious Information Service of the Ukraine, associated with the Ukranian Catholic University, was cited as one source for the articles. Another was a German Ecumenical Journal named after the great Bishops Cyril and Methodius.

Both of these sources allege that the Orthodox Patriarch made an unusual gesture toward Eastern Catholic Churches which are in union with Rome, proposing that the members of those Churches somehow "return to Orthodoxy without breaking unity with Rome".

Eastern Catholics actually believe, in some respects, that they have already done just what the Patriarch suggests. They are in full communion with Rome, and therefore with the Chair of Peter, while still remaining faithful to Orthodoxy, in their profession of faith, liturgical worship and practices.Some actually refer to themselves as "Orthodox in Union with Rome". Of course, the Orthodox have not seen it that way at all.Fortunatley, old animosity has often been replaced by a growing desire for restored communion.

Further, it is reported that the Patriarch spoke positively of a similar proposal for a form of "dual unity" made by the Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Archbishop Lubomyr Husar.Does that also suggest a warming in dialogue concerning concepts for a way toward communion?

These same sources indicate that the Patriarch may be proposing an approach to communion which would allow for some sort of "dual communion", the details of which are not clear. Further, that he has suggested that the discussions between the two sister Churches look to the first millennium model of the relationship between Rome and Constantinople for pursuing this model of communion.

The Servant of God John Paul II, wrote regularly of the two Churches, Orthodox and Catholic, as being the "two lungs" of Christianity which must breathe together again in the Third Millennium. He dedicated much of his Pontificate to promoting communion between them.

His successor, Pope Benedict XVI has also dedicated his Pontificate to promoting this communion between East and Western Christianity in the Third Millennium. He has made regular overtures toward the Orthodox Church which have received warm and hopeful responses.

Unless noted otherwise, everything posted here is © 2008 Gregory R Jensen.
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Toward & Away; Against & With

In my last post, I suggested that the Catholic and Orthodox traditions have there are different basic styles of relating to the world. In brief, the Catholic Church's tradition tends to be one that favors a "movement toward" the world. The tradition of the Orthodox Church, on the other hand, is one that values more a "movement away" from the world. In the West, grace perfects nature; in the East, grace is what makes possible the transcendence of nature. Obviously these are overly broad categories and just as obviously one can find easily "Eastern" tendencies in the "West" and "Western" tendencies in the "East." And counter examples exist in both traditions that make a hash of my typology. But be that as it may, the general tendencies are true enough. Though they are different ways of relating to the world, there are not necessarily opposed to each other. Indeed, they can even complement each other.

In my own view, one of the greatest values of psychoanalytic thought in general, and Horney's thought in particular, is that it embodies a certain anthropological genius. Psychoanalysis excels in helping us understand how even the noblest of human sentiments and goals can be shot through with self-deception and a desire for self-aggrandizement. For example, and we saw this in yesterday's post, the Catholic "movement toward" the world of person, events and things can easily become mere compliance even as the Orthodox tendency to "move away" can come to embody what Horney calls detachment, or (to use less theologically loaded language) indifference. At least by analogy, faith communities can be as pathologically neurotic as individuals.

That said, I think that it is a helpful way to think about East/West Christian relations. Both of these movements, "toward" the world and "away" from the world, I would suggest, can certainly be taken up for the life of the world. Just as a fundamental openness can embody my concern for the good of the world outside the Church, so to can my movement to separate myself from it also be in the service of the life of the world.

The tendency of some in both traditions to make rigid and exclusive what should be complementary, but opposite, movements of East and West I think is where much of the conflict arises when we sit down together to discuss the relationship between our respective traditions. Under the best of circumstances, but especially in the absence of any personal relationship, intimacy, and trust, such conversations are anxiety provoking. This is why, as a quick aside, we often discover that face to face conversations between Catholics and Orthodox seem to work so much better than they do on the internet. Absent a personal, human encounter characterized by mutual respect and trust, we tend to fall back on our preferred approach to the world. As the anxiety increases, we become more rigid in our approach.

So, for example, the more the Catholic partner move toward the position of his or her Orthodox counterpart, absent a warm human connection between them, the more likely it is that the Orthodox participant will withdraw evoking from the Catholic partner an even more passionate pursuit of common ground.

And things, by the way, work the other way around as well. The more the Orthodox "moves away," the more the Catholic partner is likely to "move toward" evoking an even more passionate "movement away" by the Orthodox.

If this is beginning to sound like a married couple stuck in a bad relationship, it should because it is.

Eventually the toxic mixture of anxiety and frustration leads not simply to a disagreement, but a bitter argument in which truth is often sacrificed for victory. Just as we can see the characteristically Eastern "movement away" among Western Christians, and can see the typically Western "movement toward" among Eastern Christians, so too both traditions have resources that lend themselves to a ratification of the third of Horney's coping mechanism: "movement against."

As with the other two movements, the movement against can, and often is, a healthy coping mechanism. There are times when we need to try and understand the one with whom we are in conflict (movement toward). At other times, the best response to conflict is to not let it bother us, to ignore it if you will (movement away). But just as clearly, there are times when must we risk a confrontation with the one with whom we are in conflict.

And, just like the other two styles, a movement against can become neurotic. For Horney a neurosis is a compulsion, what St Maximos would call a "passion." Neurosis carries me away robbing me of my freedom to respond.

We would also do well to remember that these three styles of coping are not absolute. They are dynamics and are present in different measure, at different times, in the heart of each and every person. Though a particular faith tradition might "fit" with my own style of coping, and regardless of what I tell myself to the contrary, this fit is never absolute. I suspect that so often the bitter conflicts that ignite between Catholic and Orthodox Christians reflect (as I have said before) our own passions. But now we are in a position to understand that we often seek out for ourselves the "blessing" of our respective tradition for those passions.

To the degree that I confused my faith tradition with my own preferred style of coping, to that degree I will find intolerable even theologically insignificant divergence from the tradition to which I am neurotically attached. And again as Horney reminds us, my neurosis is ultimately ground in my own self-image. This being so any divergence from my tradition is likely to be taken up by me as a personal attach—and as such evoke from me an aggressive response.

Add to this what I see as the official and explicit sanction of my tradition for my preferred coping mechanism, and an otherwise healthy person is likely to lose all sense of balance and perspective.

What we need, then, might be a new method of engaging the often conflicted world of persons, events and things that constitute our lives?

While the movements toward, against and away are valuable they are insufficient. What might be a fourth, more spiritually and theologically sound means of coping?

What is needed is that we learn not simply to move toward, away and against, but also move with each other. It is this, I would suggest, that is really the goal of any ecumenical dialog. Ironically, it is the "movement with," the movement of reconciliation and communion, that is the one that is most often neglected.

To be continued…

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Orthodox leader suggests "dual unity" for Eastern Catholics

The Church and the Ukrainian BlizzardImage by Stuck in Customs via FlickrConstantinople, Jun. 19, 2008 ( - The Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople has responded favorably to a suggestion by the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church for a system of "dual unity" in which Byzantine Catholic churches would be in full communion with both Constantinople and Rome.

Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople welcomed the proposal in an interview with the magazine Cyril and Methodius, the RISU news service reports. The acknowledged leader of the Orthodox world suggested that the "dual unity" approach would produce something akin to the situation of the Christian world in the 1st millennium, before the split between Rome and Constantinople.

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Kiev, the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church-- the largest of the Eastern Catholic churches-- had offered the possibility that Byzantine Catholics might seek communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, without giving up their communion with the Holy See. Patriarch Bartholomew expressed distinct interest in the idea, saying that "the mother Church in Constantinople holds the doors open for the return of all her former sons and daughters."

Patriarch Bartholomew acknowledged that a restoration of unity would require study, and important differences would have to be overcome. However, he observed that major steps have already been taken to resolve disagreements-- most importantly the revocation of the mutual decrees of excommunication issued by Rome and Constantinople against each other in 1054.

While Catholic and Orthodox theologians continue their efforts to reach agreement on doctrinal questions, Patriarch Bartholomew said, "the people at the grass roots have to come together again." He pointed to the "dual unity" idea as a possible step toward practical unity.

Cardinal Husar, the Ukrainian Catholic leader, has suggested in the past that the Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics of Ukraine should unite under the leadership of a single patriarch. That provocative suggestion is particularly interesting for two reasons.

First, Byzantine Catholics in Ukraine argued for years-- particularly since emerging vigorously from the shadow of Communist repression-- that the Ukrainian Catholic Church should be accorded the status of a patriarchate. Both the late Pope John Paul II (bio - news) and Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) have expressed some sympathy for that suggestion. The Byzantine-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church is substantially larger than other Catholic churches that are recognized as patriarchates, including the Maronite, Melkite, Chaldean, Syrian, Armenian and Coptic Catholic churches. However, Kiev is not a historical patriarchal see like Antioch or Alexandria. And the recognition of a Ukrainian Catholic patriarchate would be sure to provoke outrage from the Russian Orthodox Church, which has complained frequently and bitterly about the activities of Byzantine Catholics in Ukraine.

Second, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is badly split, with three different groups competing for recognition as leaders of the Byzantine faithful. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church- Kiev Patriarchate is led by Patriarch Filaret, who was once acknowledged by Moscow but broke with the Russian Orthodox Church after Ukraine gained political independence. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church- Moscow Patriarchate retains ties to Russian Orthodoxy. The Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, smaller than the other two, has frequently sided with the Kiev patriarchate in efforts to form a single, unified Orthodox Church in Ukraine, independent from Moscow.

Unless noted otherwise, everything posted here is © 2008 Gregory R Jensen.
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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Neurosis Isn’t Necessarily Bad

Applying psychological, much less psychoanalytic, constructs to a social group or a tradition is dicey at best. Even when applied to individuals, psychological and psychoanalytic constructs tend to be used reductionistically, that is, they minimize (or even ignore) human freedom. When applied to a social group insights meant to help us understand something of the individual in his or her life situation homogenize a community—it causes us to lose sight of the person for the group.

That said, however, there is still something to be said for identifying personality general styles or traits that are favored within a particular social group. Even as "I" have a preference for certain patterns of thought and action, so to do "we" or even "they" seem to reward and discourage particular ways of engaging the world of persons, events and things. Before I go on, it is very important to emphasize that in the context of this post, "world" is used more in an existential and empirical sense and not as a theological construct. "World," here means a social reality and not, as it does in John's Gospel, the creation as fallen and in rebellion against the Creator.

Earlier I hinted at the idea that Catholic and Orthodox Christians tend to favor different very broadly defined styles of engaging the world. Jesus toward the end of John's Gospel tells His disciples that we must be in the world, but not of it. Especially since the Second Vatican Council, I the Catholic Church, this has tended to take the form of a fundamental openness toward the world of persons, events and things outside her visible boundaries. For the Orthodox Church, the movement has been somewhat different—even opposite. Orthodoxy favors not a movement toward the social world outside her visible boundaries, but more a movement away from it.

Looking around the world of psychology, I think Karen Horney's work of neurosis is helpful here. So before I can look at Catholic and Orthodox polemics, I need to explain a little bit of psychoanalytic theory.

For Horney a neurosis is fundamentally a coping mechanism, it is a way of dealing with conflict. As a way of negotiating conflict—both conflicts with environment as well as our inner conflicts—a neurosis isn't necessarily pathological. Only when the neurosis becomes rigid, that is, only when we pursue some needs at the expense of other, equally legitimate needs, do we enter into the world of the pathological.

In her work Our Inner Conflicts, Horney identifies three forms of neurosis and the underlying needs that they help us meet. There is a summary on Wikipedia (which I think tends to lump healthy and pathological response to conflict together, so I've edited it for my purposes here):

Moving Toward People

  1. The need for affection and approval; pleasing others and being liked by them.
  2. The need for a partner; one whom they can love and who will solve all problems.

Moving Against People

  1. The need for social recognition; prestige and limelight.
  2. The need for personal admiration; for both inner and outer qualities—to be valued.
  3. The need for personal achievement.

Moving Away from People

  1. The need for self sufficiency and independence.
  2. The need for perfection.

Looking through the summary, it is clear that our movements toward, against or away from, others are all attempts to met very specific psychological and social needs. We all of us need both to love and be loved (moving toward), even as there is a legitimate desire for self-sufficiency and independent (moving away).

Horney will later summarize these three movements as compliance, aggression and detachment respectively. And again, these only become pathological when they are not appropriately balanced by the other two movements or responses to outer and inner conflict.

In my next post, I want to look what seems to me to be the different basic styles of Catholic and Orthodox traditions in relating to the world understood psychologically. In brief, I would suggest that in the main the Catholic Church's tradition tends to be one that favors a 'movement toward" the world. The tradition of the Orthodox Church, on the other hand, is one that values more a "movement away" from the world. In the West, grace perfects nature; in the East, grace is what makes possible the transcendence of nature. Obviously these are overly broad categories. One can find easily counter examples in both traditions. That said, I think that it is a helpful way to think about East/West Christian relations.

To be continued…

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Patriarch of Constantinople Proposes Eastern Catholicism's Return to Orthodoxy

Well, I must say, I'm just gob smacked!

So, what does this mean? Can Byzantine Catholics commune at Orthodox celebrations of the Divine Liturgy? Can Orthodox commune with Catholics?

Has His All-Holiness simply declared victory?

Read on...

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

06/19/2008 Munich (RISU) —In a recent interview with the German ecumenical journal Cyril and Methodius, the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Constantinople Bartholomew I invited Eastern Catholic Churches to return to Orthodoxy without breaking unity with Rome. He noted that "the Constantinople Mother-Church keeps the door open for all its sons and daughters." According to the Orthodox hierarch, the form of coexistence of the Byzantine Church and the Roman Church in the 1st century of Christianity should be used as a model of unity. This story was posted by on 16 June 2008.

At the same time, the patriarch made positive remarks about the idea of "dual unity" proposed by the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Archbishop Lubomyr Husar). Patriarch Bartholomew I noted in particular that this model would help to overcome the schism between the Churches.

H/T: Josephus Flavius at Byzantine Texas whose own comments are worth repeating here:

I'm rather at a loss for what to say. The Orthodox response to this should be critical and swift. The "points of communion" idea has been mentioned as the article states by the UGCC, but also by the Melkites and Antiochian Orthodox. It was rejected on the ground that all or nothing is a less complicated and more theologically reasoned approach. Understanding that the Orthodox Church does not often speak una voce on the matter of ecumenical efforts could this in fact be the step-by-step methodology that will lead to reunion? I am in favor, but I am sure many are not (some vociferously so).

Unless noted other wise , everything posted here is © 2008 Gregory R Jensen.
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