Thursday, June 12, 2008

Holiness Not Programs

Reflecting on the possibility of reconciliation between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches one of the most faithful commentators on this blog, Chrys, sent me the following in a private email (which I am quoting here with his permission):

On that subject [of the reconciliation between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches], I am not sanguine. There are significant current differences between how the Orthodox approach faith and how Catholics approach faith. In addition to differing assumptions and particular expressions that form the theological understanding of the faith, the approach itself seems fairly different. It seems to me that the list of differences is pretty extensive—though I am not sure which are truly important and which are not. Leaving that for a different day, I would only note that I still firmly believe that IF we are able to raise up truly saintly folks, they will attract others - both inside the Orthodox church and outside - to reconsider how they live and what they believe. My assumption here is rooted in my own experience that living contact with a saint can move us to want to be like him—in a way that all the argumentation in the world cannot—and this desire will necessarily lead us to question who we are, what we are doing and how we are living. In my experience—and I think Scripture gives witness to this—nothing is as powerful as an authentic, living example, someone who shows us what God is like and what life can be like. Historically, these people carry the greatest moral authority to be found. (In fact, I am convinced that some of the respect that we have for the clergy is the result of the trust and respect earned by the saints. This assumes good faith on the part of the parishioner, of course. We hear and see in the saints what can be, what ought to be, and see the priest as the representative of that legacy—if he does nothing to betray that conferred trust. Once someone experiences a betrayal of that trust, however, all clergy thereafter pay for that betrayal.) The authority is so strong that even stories (second-hand experience) can have a significant effect. From what I have read, however, truly transformative power requires living contact. (Makes sense: ours is an incarnational faith, not a propositional one.) As I have often said: transformation is ultimately the result of people not programs. (Programs can only organize and direct the people and their gifts; they can never substitute for them.) In short, though such people may be few, their effect would likely be enough to BEGIN to make a difference (leaven in the bread, as it were) that can eventually lead to reconciliation.

Reading what he says, I find myself in fundamental with Chrys' observations. While we have our part to play certainly, reconciliation (whether between Churches, or between the person and God, the members of a community) is a work of the Holy Spirit. We are called therefore to wait upon His initiative.

Thinking about this I am reminded of the word of the Prophet Isaiah (40.27-31):

Why do you say, O Jacob,

And speak, O Israel:

"My way is hidden from the LORD,

And my just claim is passed over by my God"?

Have you not known?

Have you not heard?

The everlasting God, the LORD,

The Creator of the ends of the earth,

Neither faints nor is weary.

His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak,

And to those who have no might He increases strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary,

And the young men shall utterly fall,

But those who wait on the LORD

Shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint.

As always, you comments are not only welcome, but actively sought.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Zemanta Pixie

Romanian Orthodox prelate threatened with excommunication for sharing Communion

Bucharest, Jun. 11, 2008 ( - The Orthodox prelate who shared Communion with Catholics at an Eastern-rite liturgical service in May now could face excommunication from the Romanian Orthodox Church.

Orthodox Metropolitan Nicolae Corneanu of Banat joined Romanian Catholic Bishop Alexandru Mesian of Lugoj at the altar on May 25, sharing the Eucharist with the Catholic prelate. His action outraged some Orthodox believers, and the Romanian Orthodox synod announced that Metropolitan Corneanu "may be asked to give an appropriate explanation" at a synod meeting in July.

Now another Romanian Orthodox leader, Metropolitan Bartolomeu of Cluj, has introduced a move to excommunicate Metropolitan Corneanu. That proposal will be discussed at the orthodox Synod meeting in early July.

The move to excommunicate Metropolitan Corneanu has inflamed new hostility toward Catholics-- and especially Eastern-rite Romanian Catholics-- among Orthodox hard-liners who regard any association with Catholics as suspicious. Critics have also raised heresy charges against the Orthodox Bishop Sofronie of Oradea, who participated in an ecumenical blessing-of-the-water service in January, on the feast of the Baptism of Christ, with his Romanian Catholic counterpart.

Metropolitan Corneanu has said that he does not regret joining Catholic bishops in the Divine Liturgy. But the Orthodox prelate has rejected the idea that he is likely to become a Catholic, saying that he is loyal to the Orthodox Church and will accept the consequences of his actions.

Zemanta Pixie

Abraham Heschel: The Holiness of Time

When in Genesis God creates the heavens and the earth "The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep." (1.2) Creation is presented in Genesis not ex nihilo (i.e., from nothing), but rather as a divine ordering of chaos. Slowly, methodically, God brings a shape and form to chaos. As land appears when the waters are set in their place, so to creation emerges from chaos as God brings order to the void.

For six days God labors to create and "when were finished" God "on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made." (2.2-3) Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel writes in his work The Sabbath that "In a well-composed work of art an idea of outstanding importance is not introduced haphazardly, but, like a king at an official ceremony, it is presented at a moment and in a way that will bring to light its authority and leadership." The Sabbath, the Seventh Day, is Heschel says is just such a kingly idea—it introduces to humanity not the holiness of place, but of time. "This is a radical departure from accustomed religious thinking. The mythical mind would expect that, after heaven and earth have been established, God would create a holy place—a holy mountain or a holy spring—whereupon a sanctuary is to be established. Yet it seems as if to the Bible it is holiness in time, the Sabbath, which comes first."

It is only after the holiness of time is proclaimed that God proclaims at Sinai "the sanctity of man." It is only after, as Heschel observes, that we succumb "to the temptation of worshipping a thing, a golden calf, that the erection of a Tabernacle, of holiness in space, was commanded. The sanctity of time came first, the sanctity of man came second, and the sanctity of space last. Time was hallowed by God; space, the Tabernacle, was consecrated by Moses."

On the Seventh Day God proclaims the Sabbath: "The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world." The beauty that we encounter in the Church's worship, in the music, the icons, and the architecture of the church building, are all, I would suggest, the manifestation Eternity in Time. Beauty is the encounter, the experience, in time of the Eternal

And if, as Heschel suggests, there is a hierarchy to the sanctity of creation—time, the human, and only finally space—this doesn't mean that we can neglect one in favor of another. To use an image I have used before, the three are nested within each other—space is sanctified by humanity, humanity by time, time by God. Thinking about time as sacred opens up for us new avenues of understanding of the heavy, some have said over, emphasis on liturgy that we see in Orthodox Church.

To be continued…

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Zemanta Pixie