Система Orphus
The Orthodox Church
(Faith and Worship)



by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware)

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Introduction
1. The Beginnings
2. Byzantium, I: The Church of the Seven Councils
   The establishment of an imperial Church
   The first Six Councils (325-681)
   The holy icons
   Saints, monks, and emperors
3. Byzantium, II: The Great Schism
   The estrangement of Eastern and Western Christendom
   From estrangement to schism: 858-1204
   Two attempts at reunion; the hesychast controversy
4. The Conversion of the Slavs
   Cyril and Methodius
   The Baptism of Russia: The Kiev Period (988-1237)
   The Russian Church Under the Mongols (1237-1448)
5. The Church under Islam
   Imperium in Imperio
   Reformation and Counter-Reformation: their double impact
6. Moscow and Petersburg
   Moscow the third Rome
   The schism of the Old Believers
   The Synodical period (1700-1917)
7. The twentieth century, I: Greeks and Arabs
8. The twentieth century, II: Orthodoxy and the Militant Atheists (1)
8. The twentieth century, II: Orthodoxy and the Militant Atheists (2)
9. The twentieth century, III: Diaspora and Mission (1)
9. The twentieth century, III: Diaspora and Mission (2)

10. Holy Tradition
   Inner Meaning of Tradition
   Outward Forms
11. God and Man
   God in Trinity
   Man: His Creation, His Vocation, His Failure
   Jesus Christ
   The Holy Spirit
   'Partakers of the Divine Nature'
12. The Church of God
   God and His Church
   Unity and Infallibility of the Church
   Bishops : Laity : Councils
   Living and Dead
   Last Things
13. Orthodox Worship I: Service
   Doctrine and Worship
   Outward Setting of Services
14. Orthodox Worship II: Sacraments
   Baptism
   Chrismation
   Eucharist
   Repentance
   Holy Orders
   Marriage
   Anointing
15. Orthodox Worship III: Feasts and Fasts
   Christian Year
   Private Prayer
16. Orthodox Church and Reunion of Christians
   One Holy Catholic Church
   Relations with Other Communions
   Learning from One Another



CHAPTER 12

The Church of God

"Christ loved the Church, and gave himself up for it" (Eph. 5:25).

 

"The Church is one and the same with the Lord — His Body, of His flesh and of His bones. The Church is the living vine, nourished by Him and growing in Him. Never think of the Church apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, from the Father and the Holy Spirit" (Father John of Kronstadt).

 

God and His Church

An Orthodox Christian is vividly conscious of belonging to community. ‘We know that when any one of us falls,’ wrote Khomiakov, ‘he falls alone; but no one is saved alone. He is saved in the Church, as a member of it and in union with all Kitts other members (The Church is One, section 9).

Some of the differences between the Orthodox doctrine of the Church and those of western Christians will have become apparent in the first part of this book. Unlike Protestantism, Orthodoxy insists upon the hierarchical structure of the Church, upon the Apostolic Succession, the episcopate, and the priesthood; it prays to the saints and intercedes for the departed. Thus far Rome and Orthodoxy agree — but where Rome thinks in terms of the supremacy and the universal jurisdiction of the Pope, Orthodoxy thinks in terms of the college of bishops and of the Ecumenical Council; where Rome stresses Papal infallibility, Orthodox stress the infallibility of the Church as a whole. Doubtless neither side is entirely fair to the other, but to Orthodox it often seems that Rome envisages the Church too much in terms of earthly power and organization, while to Roman Catholics it often seems that the more spiritual and mystical doctrine of the Church held by Orthodoxy is vague, incoherent, and incomplete. Orthodox would answer that they do not neglect the earthly organization of the Church, but have many strict and minute rules, as anyone who reads the Canons can quickly discover.

Yet the Orthodox idea of the Church is certainly spiritual and mystical in this sense, that Orthodox theology never treats the earthly aspect of the Church in isolation, but thinks always of the Church in Christ and the Holy Spirit. All Orthodox thinking about the Church starts with the special relationship which exists between the Church and God. Three phrases can be used to describe this relation: the Church is 1) the Image of the Holy Trinity, 2) the Body of Christ, 3) a continued Pentecost. The Orthodox doctrine of the Church is Trinitarian, Christological, and ‘pneumatological.’

 

1. The Image of the Holy Trinity. Just as each man is made according to the image of the Trinitarian God, so the Church as a whole is an icon of God the Trinity, reproducing on earth the mystery of unity in diversity. In the Trinity the three are one God, yet each is fully personal; in the Church a multitude of human persons are united in one, yet each preserves his personal diversity unimpaired. The mutual indwelling of the persons of the Trinity is paralleled by the coinherence of the members of the Church. In the Church there is no conflict between freedom and authority; in the Church there is unity, but no totalitarianism. When Orthodox apply the word ‘Catholic’ to the Church, they have in mind (among other things) this living miracle of the unity of many persons in one.

This conception of the Church as an icon of the Trinity has many further applications. ‘Unity in diversity’ — just as each person of the Trinity is autonomous, so the Church is made up of a number of independent Autocephalous Churches; and just as in the Trinity the three persons are equal, so in the Church no one bishop can claim to wield an absolute power over all the rest.

This idea of the Church as an icon of the Trinity also helps to understand the Orthodox emphasis upon Councils. A council is an expression of the Trinitarian nature of the Church. The mystery of unity in diversity according to the image of the Trinity can be seen in action, as the many bishops assembled council freely reach a common mind under the guidance of Spirit.

The unity of the Church is linked more particularly with the person of Christ, its diversity with the person of the Holy Spirit.

 

2. The Body of Christ: "We, who are many, are one body in Christ" (Romans 12:5). Between Christ and the Church there is the closest possible bond: in the famous phrase of Ignatius, ‘where Christ is, there is the Catholic Church’ (To the Smyrnaeans, 8:2). The Church is the extension of the Incarnation, the place where the Incarnation perpetuates itself. The Church, the Greek theologian Chrestos Androutsos has written, is ‘the center and organ of Christ’s redeeming work; ... it is nothing else than the continuation and extension of His prophetic, priestly, and kingly power ... The Church and its Founder are inextricably bound together... The Church is Christ with us (Dogmatic Theology, Athens, 1907, pp. 262-5 (in Greek)). Christ did not leave the Church when He ascended into heaven: "Lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world," He promised (Matt. 28:20), "for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). It is only too easy to fall into the mistake of speaking of Christ as absent:

And still the Holy Church is here

Although her Lord is gone (From a hymn by J. M. Neale).

 

But how can we say that Christ ‘is gone,’ when He has promised us His perpetual presence?

The unity between Christ and His Church is effected above all through the sacraments. At Baptism, the new Christian is buried and raised with Christ; at the Eucharist the members of Christ’s Body the Church receive His Body in the sacraments. The Eucharist, by uniting the members of the Church to Christ, at the same time unites them to one another: "We, who are many, are one bread, one body; for we all partake of the one bread" (1 Cor. 10:17). The Eucharist creates the unity of the Church. The Church (as Ignatius saw) is a Eucharistic society, a sacramental organism which exists — and exists in its fullness — wherever the Eucharist is celebrated. It is no coincidence that the term ‘Body of Christ’ should mean both the Church and the sacrament; and that the phrase communio sanctorum in the Apostles’ Creed should mean both ‘the communion of the holy people’ (communion of saints) and ‘the communion of the holy things’ (communion in the sacraments).

The Church must be thought of primarily in sacramental terms. Its outward organization, however important, is secondary to its sacramental life.

 

3. A continued Pentecost. It is easy to lay such emphasis on the Church as the Body of Christ that the role of the Holy Spirit is forgotten. But, as we have said, in their work among men Son and Spirit are complementary to one another, and this is as true in the doctrine of the Church as it is elsewhere. While Ignatius said ‘where Christ is, there is the Catholic Church,’ Irenaeus wrote with equal truth ‘where the Church is, there is the Spirit, and where the Spirit is, there is the Church (Against the Heresies 3, 26, 1). The Church, precisely because it is the Body of Christ, is also the temple and dwelling place of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of freedom. While Christ unites us, the Holy Spirit ensures our infinite diversity in the Church: at Pentecost the tongues of fire were ‘cloven’ or divided, descending separately upon each one of those present. The gift of the Spirit is a gift to the Church, but it is at the same time a personal gift, appropriated by each in his own way. "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:4). Life in the Church does not mean the ironing out of human variety, nor the imposition of a rigid and uniform pattern upon all alike, but the exact opposite. The saints, so far from displaying a drab monotony, have developed the most vivid and distinctive personalities. It is not holiness but evil which is dull.

Such in brief is the relation between the Church and God. This Church — the icon of the Trinity, the Body of Christ, the fullness of the Spirit — is both visible and invisible, both divine and human. It is visible, for it is composed of concrete congregations, worshipping here on earth; it is invisible, for it also includes the saints and the angels. It is human, for its earthly members are sinners; it is divine, for it is the Body of Christ. There is no separation between the visible and the invisible, between (to use western terminology) the Church militant and the Church triumphant, for the two make up a single and continuous reality. ‘The Church visible, or upon earth, lives in, complete communion and unity with the whole body of the Church, of which Christ is the Head (Khomiakov, The Church is One, section 9.). It stands at a point of intersection between the Present Age and the Age to Come, and it lives in both Ages at once.

Orthodoxy, therefore, while using the phrase ‘the Church visible and invisible,’ insists always that there are not two Churches, but one. As Khomiakov said: ‘It is only in relation to man that it is possible to recognize a division of the Church into visible and invisible; its unity is, in reality, true and absolute. Those who are alive on earth, those who have finished their earthly course, those who, like the angels, were not created for a life on earth, those in future generations who have not yet begun their earthly course, are all united together in one Church, in one and the same grace of God ... The Church, the Body of Christ, manifests forth and fulfils itself in time, without changing its essential unity or inward life of grace. And therefore, when we speak of ‘the Church visible and invisible,’ we so speak only in relation to man (ibid., section 1).

The Church, according to Khomiakov, is accomplished on earth without losing its essential characteristics; it is, in Georges Florovsky’s words, ‘the living image of eternity within time’ (‘Sobornost: the Catholicity of the Church,’ in The Church of God, edited by E. L. Mascall, p. 63). This is a cardinal point in Orthodox teaching. Orthodoxy does not believe merely in an ideal Church, invisible and heavenly. This ‘ideal Church’ exists visibly on earth as a concrete reality.

Yet Orthodoxy does not forget that there is a human element in the Church as well as a divine. The dogma of Chalcedon must be applied to the Church as well as to Christ. Just as Christ the God-Man has two natures, divine and human, so in the Church there is a synergy or cooperation between the divine and the human. Yet between Christ’s humanity and that of the Church there is this obvious difference, that the one is perfect and sinless, while the other is not yet fully so. Only a part of the humanity of the Church — the saints in heaven — has attained perfection, while here on earth the Church’s members often misuse their human freedom. The Church on earth exists in a state of tension: it is already the Body of Christ, and thus perfect and sinless, and yet, since its members are imperfect and sinful, it must continually become what it is (‘This idea of "becoming what you are" is the key to the whole eschatological teaching of the New Testament’ (Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, p. 247)).

But the sin of man cannot affect the essential nature of the Church. We must not say that because Christians on earth sin and are imperfect, therefore the Church sins and is imperfect; for the Church, even on earth, is a thing of heaven, and cannot sin (See the Declaration on Faith and Order made by the Orthodox Delegates at Evanston in 1954, where this point is put very clearly). Saint Ephraim of Syria rightly spoke of ‘the Church of the penitents, the Church of those who perish,’ but this Church is at the same time the icon of the Trinity. How is it that the members of the Church are sinners, and yet they belong to the communion of saints? ‘The mystery of the Church consists in the very fact that together sinners become something different from what they are as individuals; this "something different" is the Body of Christ’ (J. Meyendorff, ‘What Holds the Church Together?’ in the Ecumenical Review, vol. 12 (1960), p. 298).

Such is the way in which Orthodoxy approaches the mystery of the Church. The Church is integrally linked with God. It is a new life according to the image of the Holy Trinity, a life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit, a life realized by participation in the sacraments. The Church is a single reality, earthly and heavenly, visible and invisible, human and divine.

 

The unity and infallibility of the Church

‘The Church is one. Its unity follows of necessity from the unity of God’ (The Church is One, section 1). So wrote Khomiakov in the opening words of his famous essay. If we take seriously the bond between God and His Church, then we must inevitably think of the Church as one, even as God is one: there is only one Christ, and so there can be only one Body of Christ. Nor is this unity merely ideal and invisible; Orthodox theology refuses to separate the ‘invisible’ and the ‘visible Church,’ and therefore it refuses to say that the Church is invisibly one but visibly divided. No: the Church is one, in the sense that here on earth there is a single, visible community which alone can claim to be the one true Church. The ‘undivided Church’ is not merely something that existed in the past, and which we hope will exist again in the future: it is something that exists here and now. Unity is one of the essential characteristics of the Church, and since the Church on earth, despite the sinfulness of its members, retains its essential characteristics, it remains and always will remain visibly one. There can be schisms from the Church, but no schisms within the Church. And while it is undeniably true that, on a purely human level, the Church’s life is grievously impoverished as a result of schisms, yet such schisms cannot affect the essential nature of the Church.

In its teaching upon the visible unity of the Church, Orthodoxy stands far closer to Roman Catholicism than to the Protestant world. But if we ask how this visible unity is maintained, Rome and the east give somewhat different answers. For Rome the unifying principle in the Church is the Pope whose jurisdiction extends over the whole body, whereas Orthodox do not believe any bishop to be endowed with universal jurisdiction. What then holds the Church together? Orthodox answer, the act of communion in the sacraments. The Orthodox theology of the Church is above all else a theology of communion. Each local Church is constituted, as Ignatius saw, by the congregation of the faithful, gathered round their bishop and celebrating the Eucharist; the Church universal is constituted by the communion of the heads of the local Churches, the bishops, with one another. Unity is not maintained from without by the authority of a Supreme Pontiff, but created from within by the celebration of the Eucharist. The Church is not monarchical in structure, centered round a single hierarch; it is collegial, formed by the communion of many hierarchs with one another, and of each hierarch with the members of his flock. The act of communion therefore forms the criterion for membership of the Church. An individual ceases to be a member of the Church if he severs communion with his bishop; a bishop ceases to be a member of the Church if he severs communion with his fellow bishops.

Orthodoxy, believing that the Church on earth has remained and must remain visibly one, naturally also believes itself to be that one visible Church. This is a bold claim, and to many it will seem an arrogant one; but this is to misunderstand the spirit in which it is made. Orthodox believe that they are the true Church, not on account of any personal merit, but by the grace of God. They say with Saint Paul: "We are no better than pots of earthenware to contain this treasure; the sovereign power comes from God and not from us" (2 Cor. 4:7). But while claiming no credit for themselves, Orthodox are in all humility convinced that they have received a precious and unique gift from God; and if they pretended to men that they did not possess this gift, they would be guilty of an act of betrayal in the sight of heaven.

Orthodox writers sometimes speak as if they accepted the ‘Branch Theory,’ once popular among High Church Anglicans. (According to this theory, the Catholic Church is divided in several ‘branches;’ usually three such branches are posited, the Roman Catholic, the Anglican, and the Orthodox). But such a view cannot be reconciled with traditional Orthodox theology. If we are going to speak in terms of ‘branches,’ then from the Orthodox point of view the only branches which the Catholic Church can have are the local Autocephalous Churches of the Orthodox communion.

Claiming as it does to be the one true Church, the Orthodox Church also believes that, if it so desired, it could by itself convene and hold another Ecumenical Council, equal in authority to the first seven. Since the separation of east and west the Orthodox (unlike the west) have never in fact chosen to summon such a Council; but this does not mean that they believe themselves to lack the power to do so.

So much for the Orthodox idea of the unity of the Church. Orthodoxy also teaches that outside the Church there is no salvation. This belief has the same basis as the Orthodox belief in the unbreakable unity of the Church: it follows from the close relation between God and His Church. ‘A man cannot have God as his Father if he does not have the Church as his Mother’ (On the Unity of the Catholic Church, 6). So wrote Saint Cyprian; and to him this seemed an evident truth, because he could not think of God and the Church apart from one another. God is salvation, and God’s saving power is mediated to man in His Body, the Church. ‘Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. All the categorical strength and point of this aphorism lies in its tautology. Outside the Church there is no salvation, because salvation is the Church’ (G. Florovsky, ‘Sobornost: the Catholicity of the Church,’ in The Church of God, p. 53). Does it therefore follow that anyone who is not visibly within the Church is necessarily damned? Of course not; still less does it follow that everyone who is visibly within the Church is necessarily saved. As Augustine wisely remarked: ‘How many sheep there are without, how many wolves within!’ (Homilies on John, 45, 12) While there is no division between a ‘visible’ and an ‘invisible Church,’ yet there may be members of the Church who are not visibly such, but whose membership is known to God alone. If anyone is saved, he must in some sense be a member of the Church; in what sense, we cannot always say (On this question, see pp. 315-317).

 

The Church is infallible. This again follows from the indissoluble unity between God and His Church. Christ and the Holy Spirit cannot err, and since the Church is Christ’s body, since it is a continued Pentecost, it is therefore infallible. It is "the pillar and the ground of truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). "When he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). So Christ promised at the Last Supper; and Orthodoxy believes that Christ’s promise cannot fail. In the words of Dositheus: ‘We believe the Catholic Church to be taught by the Holy Spirit ... and therefore we both believe and profess as true and undoubtedly certain, that it is impossible for the Catholic Church to err, or to be at all deceived, or ever to choose falsehood instead of truth (Confession, Decree 12).

The Church’s infallibility is expressed chiefly through Ecumenical Councils. But before we can understand what makes a Council Ecumenical, we must consider the place of bishops and of the laity in the Orthodox communion.

 

Bishops, Laity, Councils

The Orthodox Church is a hierarchical Church. An essential element in its structure is the Apostolic Succession of bishops. ‘The dignity of the bishop is so necessary in the Church,’ wrote Dositheus, ‘that without him neither the Church nor the name Christian could exist or be spoken of at all ... He is a living image of God upon earth ... and a fountain of all the sacraments of the Catholic Church, through which we obtain salvation’ (Confession, Decree 10). ‘If any are not with the bishop,’ said Cyprian, ‘they are not in the Church’ (Letter 66, 8).

At his election and consecration an Orthodox bishop is endowed with the threefold power of 1) ruling, 2) teaching, and 3) celebrating the sacraments.

 

1. A bishop is appointed by God to guide and to rule the flock committed to his charge; he is a ‘monarch’ in his own diocese.

 

2. At his consecration a bishop receives a special gift or charisma from the Holy Spirit, in virtue of which he acts as a teacher of the faith. This ministry of teaching the bishop performs above all at the Eucharist, when he preaches the sermon to the people; when other members of the Church — priests or laymen — preach sermons, strictly speaking they act as the bishop’s delegates. But although the bishop has a special charisma, it is always possible that he may fall into error and give false teaching: here as elsewhere the principle of synergy applies, and the divine element does not expel the human. The bishop remains a man, and as such he may make mistakes. The Church is infallible, but there is no such thing as personal infallibility.

 

3. The bishop, as Dositheus put it, is ‘the fountain of all the sacraments.’ In the primitive Church the celebrant at the Eucharist was normally the bishop, and even today a priest, when he celebrates Mass, is really acting as the bishop’s deputy.

But the Church is not only hierarchical, it is charismatic and Pentecostal. "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings" (1 Thes. 5:19-20). The Holy Spirit is poured out upon all God’s people. There is a special ordained ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons; yet at the same time the whole people of God are prophets and priests. In the Apostolic Church, besides the institutional ministry conferred by the laying on of hands, there were other charismata or gifts conferred directly by the Spirit: Paul mentions ‘gifts of healing,’ the working of miracles, "speaking with tongues," and the like (1 Cor. 12:28-30). In the Church of later days, these charismatic ministries have been less in evidence, but they have never been wholly extinguished. One thinks, for example, of the ministry of ‘eldership,’ so prominent in nineteenth-century Russia; this is not imparted by a special act of ordination, but can be exercised by the layman as well as by priest or bishop. Seraphim of Sarov and the startsi of Optino exercised an influence far greater than any hierarch.

This ‘spiritual,’ non-institutional aspect of the Church’s life has been particularly emphasized by certain recent theologians in the Russian emigration; but it is also stressed by Byzantine writers, most notably Symeon the New Theologian. More than once in Orthodox history the ‘charismatics’ have come into conflict with the hierarchy, but in the end there is no contradiction between the two elements in the Church’s life: it is the same Spirit who is active in both.

We have called the bishop a ruler and monarch, but these terms are not to be understood in a harsh and impersonal sense; for in exercising his powers the bishop is guided by the Christian law of love. He is not a tyrant but a father to his flock. The Orthodox attitude to the episcopal office is well expressed in the prayer used at a consecration: ‘Grant, O Christ, that this man, who has been appointed a steward of the Episcopal grace, may become an imitator of thee, the True Shepherd, by laying down his life for thy sheep. Make him a guide to the blind, a light to those in darkness, a teacher to the unreasonable, an instructor to the foolish, a flaming torch in the world; so that having brought to perfection the souls entrusted to him in this present life, he may stand without confusion before thy judgment seat, and receive the great reward which thou hast prepared for those who have suffered for the preaching of thy Gospel.’

The authority of the bishop is fundamentally the authority of the Church. However great the prerogatives of the bishop may be, he is not someone set up over the Church, but the holder of an office in the Church. Bishop and people are joined in an organic unity, and neither can properly be thought of apart from the other. Without bishops there can be no Orthodox people, but without Orthodox people there can be no true bishop. ‘The Church,’ said Cyprian, ‘is the people united to the bishop, the flock clinging to its shepherd. The bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishop’ (Letter 66, 8).

The relation between the bishop and his flock is a mutual one. The bishop is the divinely appointed teacher of the faith, but the guardian of the faith is not the episcopate alone, but the whole people of God, bishops, clergy, and laity together. The proclamation of the truth is not the same as the possession of the truth: all the people possess the truth, but it is the bishop’s particular office to proclaim it. Infallibility belongs to the whole Church, not just to the episcopate in isolation. As the Orthodox Patriarchs said in their Letter of 1848 to Pope Pius the Ninth: ‘Among us, neither Patriarchs nor Councils could ever introduce new teaching, for the guardian of religion is the very body of the Church, that is, the people (laos) itself.’

Commenting on this statement, Khomiakov wrote: ‘The Pope is greatly mistaken in supposing that we consider the ecclesiastical hierarchy to be the guardian of dogma. The case is quite different. The unvarying constancy and the unerring truth of Christian dogma does not depend upon any hierarchical order; it is guarded by the totality, by the whole people of the Church, which is the Body of Christ’ (Letter in W. J. Birkbeck, Russia and the English Church, p. 94).

This conception of the laity and their place in the Church must be kept in mind when considering the nature of an Ecumenical Council. The laity are guardians and not teachers; therefore, although they may attend a council and take an active part in the proceedings (as Constantine and other Byzantine Emperors did), yet when the moment comes for the council to make a formal proclamation of the faith, it is the bishops alone who, in virtue of their teaching charisma, take the final decision.

But councils of bishops can err and be deceived. How then can one be certain that a particular gathering is truly an Ecumenical Council and therefore that its decrees are infallible? Many councils have considered themselves ecumenical and have claimed to speak in the name of the whole Church, and yet the Church has rejected them as heretical: Ephesus in 449, for example, or the Iconoclast Council of Hieria in 754, or Florence in 1438-9. Yet these councils seem in no way different in outward appearance from the Ecumenical Councils. What, then, is the criterion for determining whether a council is ecumenical?

This is a more difficult question to answer than might at first appear, and though it has been much discussed by Orthodox during the past hundred years, it cannot be said that the solutions suggested are entirely satisfactory. All Orthodox know which are the seven Councils that their Church accepts as ecumenical, but precisely what it is that makes a council ecumenical is not so clear. There are, so it must be admitted, certain points in the Orthodox theology of Councils which remain obscure and which call for further thinking on the part of theologians. With this caution in mind, let us briefly consider the present trend of Orthodox thought on this subject.

To the question how one can know whether a council is ecumenical, Khomiakov and his school gave an answer which at first sight appears clear and straightforward: a council cannot be considered ecumenical unless its decrees are accepted by the whole Church. Florence, Hieria, and the rest, while ecumenical in outward appearance, are not truly so, precisely because they failed to secure this acceptance by the Church at large. (One might object: What about Chalcedon? It was rejected by Syria and Egypt — can we say, then, that it was ‘accepted by the Church at large’?) The bishops, so Khomiakov argued, because they are the teachers of the faith, define and proclaim the truth in council; but these definitions must then be acclaimed by the whole people of God, including the laity, because it is the whole people of God that constitutes the guardian of Tradition. This emphasis on the need for councils to be received by the Church at large has been viewed with suspicion by some Orthodox theologians, both Greek and Russian, who fear that Khomiakov and his followers have endangered the prerogatives of the episcopate and ‘democratized’ the idea of the Church. But in a qualified and carefully guarded form, Khomiakov’s view is now fairly widely accepted in contemporary Orthodox thought.

This act of acceptance, this reception of councils by the Church as a whole, must not be understood in a juridical sense: ‘It does not mean that the decisions of the councils should be confirmed by a general plebiscite and that without such a plebiscite they have no force. There is no such plebiscite. But from historical experience it clearly appears that the voice of a given council has truly been the voice of the Church or that it has not: that is all’ (S. Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church, p. 89).

At a true Ecumenical Council the bishops recognize what the truth is and proclaim it; this proclamation is then verified by the assent of the whole Christian people, an assent which is not, a rule, expressed formally and explicitly, but lived.

It is not merely the numbers or the distribution of its members which determines the ecumenicity of a council: ‘An ‘Ecumenical’ Council is such, not because accredited representatives of all the Autocephalous Churches have taken part in it, but because it has borne witness to the faith of the Ecumenical Church’ (Metropolitan Seraphim, L’Église orthodoxe, p. 51).

The ecumenicity of a council cannot be decided by outward criteria alone: ‘Truth can have no external criterion, for it is manifest of itself and made inwardly plain’ (V. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, p. 188). The infallibility of the Church must not be ‘exteriorized,’ nor understood in too ‘material’ a sense: ‘It is not the ‘ecumenicity’ but the truth of the councils which makes their decisions obligatory for us. We touch here upon the fundamental mystery of the Orthodox doctrine of the Church: the Church is the miracle of the presence of God among men, beyond all formal ‘criteria,’ all formal ‘infallibility.’ It is not enough to summon an ‘Ecumenical Council’ ... it is also necessary that in the midst of those so assembled there should be present He who said: "I am the Way, the Truth, the Life." Without this presence, however numerous and representative the assembly may be, it will not be in the truth. Protestants and Catholics usually fail to understand this fundamental truth of Orthodoxy: both materialize the presence of God in the Church — the one party in the letter of Scripture, the other in the person of the Pope — though they do not thereby avoid the miracle, but clothe it in a concrete form. For Orthodoxy, the sole ‘criterion of truth’ remains God Himself, living mysteriously in the Church, leading it in the way of the Truth’ (J. Meyendorff, quoted by M. J. le Guillou, Missio et Unité, Paris, 1960, vol. 2, p. 313).

 

The living and the dead:

The Mother of God

In God and in His Church there is no division between the living and the departed, but all are one in the love of the Father. Whether we are alive or whether we are dead, as members of the Church we still belong to the same family, and still have a duty to bear one another’s burdens. Therefore just as Orthodox Christians here on earth pray for one another and ask for one another’s prayers, so they pray also for the faithful departed and ask the faithful departed to pray for them. Death cannot sever the bond of mutual love which links the members of the Church together.

 

Prayers for the Departed. ‘With the saints give rest, O Christ, to the souls of thy servants, where there is neither sickness, nor sorrow, nor sighing, but life everlasting.’ So the Orthodox Church prays for the faithful departed; and again: ‘O God of spirits and of all flesh, who hast trampled down death and overthrown the Devil, and given life unto Thy world: Do thou, the same Lord, give rest to the souls of Thy departed servants, in a place of light, refreshment, and repose, whence all pain, sorrow, and sighing have fled away. Pardon every transgression which they have committed, whether by word or deed or thought.’

Orthodox are convinced that Christians here on earth have a duty to pray for the departed, and they are confident that the dead are helped by such prayers. But precisely in what way do our prayers help the dead? What exactly is the condition of souls in the period between death and the Resurrection of the Body at the Last Day? Here Orthodox teaching is not entirely clear, and has varied somewhat at different times. In the seventeenth century a number of Orthodox writers — most notably Peter of Moghila and Dositheus in his Confession — upheld the Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, or something very close to it (According to the normal Roman teaching, souls in Purgatory undergo expiatory suffering, and so render ‘satisfaction’ or ‘atonement’ for their sins. It should be remarked, however, that even in the seventeenth century there were many Orthodox who rejected the Roman teaching on Purgatory. The statements on the departed in Moghila’s Orthodox Confession were carefully changed by Meletius Syrigos, while in later life Dositheus specifically retracted what he had written on the subject in his Confession). Today most if not all Orthodox theologians reject the idea of Purgatory, at any rate in this form. The majority would be inclined to say that the faithful departed do not suffer at all. Another school holds that perhaps they suffer, but, if so, their suffering is of a purificatory but not an expiatory character; for when a man dies in the grace of God, then God freely forgives him all his sins and demands no expiatory penalties: Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is our only atonement and satisfaction. Yet a third group would prefer to leave the whole question entirely open: let us avoid detailed formulation about the life after death, they say, and preserve instead a reverent and agnostic reticence. When Saint Antony of Egypt was once worrying about divine providence, a voice came to him, saying: ‘Antony, attend to yourself; for these are the judgments of God, and it is not for you to know them’ (Apophthegmata (P.G. 65), Antony, 2).

 

The Saints. Symeon the New Theologian describes the saints as forming a golden chain: ‘The Holy Trinity, pervading all men from first to last, from head to foot, binds them all together ... The saints in each generation, joined to those who have gone before, and filled like them with light, become a golden chain, in which each saint is a separate link, united to the next by faith, works, and love. So in the One God they form a single chain which cannot quickly be broken’ (Centuries, 3, 2-4). Such is the Orthodox idea of the communion of saints. This chain is a chain of mutual love and prayer; and in this loving prayer the members of the Church on earth, ‘called to be saints,’ have their place.

In private an Orthodox Christian is free to ask for the prayers of any member of the Church, whether canonized or not. It would be perfectly normal for an Orthodox child, if orphaned, to end his evening prayers by asking for the intercessions not only of the Mother of God and the saints, but of his own mother and father. In its public worship, however, the Church usually prays only to those whom it has officially proclaimed as saints; but in exceptional circumstances a public cult may become established without any formal act of canonization. The Greek Church under the Ottoman Empire soon began to commemorate the New Martyrs in its worship, but to avoid the notice of the Turks there was usually no official act of proclamation: the cult of the New Martyrs was in most cases something that arose spontaneously under popular initiative. The same thing has happened in recent years with the New Martyrs of Russia: in certain places, both within and outside the Soviet Union, they have begun to be honoured as saints in the Church’s worship, but present conditions in the Russian Church make a formal canonization impossible.

Reverence for the saints is closely bound up with the veneration of icons. These are placed by Orthodox not only in their churches, but in each room of their homes, and even in cars and buses. These ever-present icons act as a point of meeting between the living members of the Church and those who have gone before. Icons help Orthodox to look on the saints not as remote and legendary figures from the past, but as contemporaries and personal friends.

At Baptism an Orthodox is given the name of a saint, ‘as a symbol of his entry into the unity of the Church which is not only the earthly Church, but also the Church in heaven’ (P. Kovalevsky, Exposé de la foi catholique orthodoxe, Paris, 1957, p. 16). An Orthodox has a special devotion to the saint whose name he bears; he usually keeps an icon of his patron saint in his room, and prays daily to him. The festival of his patron saint he keeps as his Name Day, and to most Orthodox (as to most Roman Catholics in continental Europe) this is a date far more important than one’s actual birthday.

An Orthodox Christian prays not only to the saints but to the angels, and in particular to his guardian angel. The angels ‘fence us around with their intercessions and shelter us under their protecting wings of immaterial glory’ (From the Dismissal Hymn for the Feast of the Archangels (8 November)).

 

The Mother of God. Among the saints a special position belongs to the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom Orthodox reverence as the most exalted among God’s creatures, ‘more honourable than the cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the seraphim’ (From the hymn Meet it is, sung at the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom). Note that we have termed her ‘most exalted among God’s creatures:’ Orthodox, like Roman Catholics, venerate or honour the Mother of God, but in no sense do the members of either Church regard her as a fourth person of the Trinity, nor do they assign to her the worship due to God alone. In Greek theology the distinction is very clearly marked: there is a special word, latreia, reserved for the worship of God, while for the veneration of the Virgin entirely different terms are employed (duleia, hyperduleia, proskynesis).

In Orthodox services Mary is often mentioned, and on each occasion she is usually given her full title: ‘Our All-Holy, immaculate, most blessed and glorified Lady, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary.’ Here are included the three chief epithets applied to Our Lady by the Orthodox Church: Tkeotokos (Mother of God), Aeiparthenos (Ever-Virgin), and Panagia (All-Holy). The first of these titles was assigned to her by the third Ecumenical Council (Ephesus, 431), the second by the fifth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople, 553). (Belief in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary may seem at first sight contrary to Scripture, since Mark 3:31 mentions the ‘brothers’ of Christ. But the word used here in Greek can mean half-brother, cousin, or near relative, as well as brother in the strict sense). The title Panagia, although never a subject of dogmatic definition, is accepted and used by all Orthodox.

The appellation Theotokos is of particular importance, for it provides the key to the Orthodox cult of the Virgin. We honour Mary because she is the Mother of our God. We do not venerate her in isolation, but because of her relation to Christ. Thus the reverence shown to Mary, so far from eclipsing the worship of God, has exactly the opposite effect: the more we esteem Mary, the more vivid is our awareness of the majesty of her Son, for it is precisely on account of the Son that we venerate the Mother.

We honour the Mother on account of the Son: Mariology is simply an extension of Christology. The Fathers of the Council of Ephesus insisted on calling Mary Theotokos, not because they desired to glorify her as an end in herself, apart from her Son, but because only by honouring Mary could they safeguard a right doctrine of Christ’s person. Anyone who thinks out the implications of that great phrase, The Word was made flesh, cannot but feel a certain awe for her who was chosen as the instrument of so surpassing a mystery. When men refuse to honour Mary, only too often it is because they do not really believe in the Incarnation.

But Orthodox honour Mary, not only because she is Theotokos, but because she is Panagia, All-Holy. Among all God’s Creatures, she is the supreme example of synergy or cooperation between the purpose of the deity and the free will of man. God, who always respects human liberty, did not wish to become incarnate without the free consent of His Mother. He Waited for her voluntary response: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). Mary could have refused; she was not merely passive, but an active participant in the mystery. As Nicholas Cabasilas said: ‘The Incarnation was not only the work of the Father, of His Power and His Spirit ... but it was also the work of the will and faith of the Virgin ... Just as God became incarnate voluntarily, so He wished that His Mother should bear Him freely and with her full consent’ (On the Annunciation, 4-5 (Patrologia Orientalis, vol, 19, Paris, 1926, p. 488)).

If Christ is the New Adam, Mary is the New Eve, whose went submission to the will of God counterbalanced Eve’s disobedience in Paradise. ‘So the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed through the obedience of Mary; for what Eve, a Virgin, bound by her unbelief, that Mary, a virgin, unloosed by her faith’ (Irenaeus, Against the Heresies, 3, 22, 4). ‘Death by Eve, life by Mary’ (Jerome, Letter 22, 21).

The Orthodox Church calls Mary ‘All-Holy;’ it calls her ‘immaculate’ or ‘spotless’ (in Greek, achrantos); and all Orthodox are agreed in believing that Our Lady was free from actual sin. But was she also free from original sin? In other words, does Orthodoxy agree with the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, proclaimed as a dogma by Pope Pius the Ninth in 1854, according to which Mary, from the moment she was conceived by her mother Saint Anne, was by God’s special decree delivered from ‘all stain of original sin?’ The Orthodox Church has never in fact made any formal and definitive pronouncement on the matter. In the past individual Orthodox have made statements which, if not definitely affirming the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, at any rate approach close to it; but since 1854 the great majority of Orthodox have rejected the doctrine, for several reasons. They feel it to be unnecessary; they feel that, at any rate as defined by the Roman Catholic Church, it implies a false understanding of original sin; they suspect the doctrine because it seems to separate Mary from the rest of the descendants of Adam, putting her in a completely different class from all the other righteous men and women of the Old Testament. From the Orthodox point of view, however, the whole question belongs to the realm of theological opinion; and if an individual Orthodox today felt impelled to believe in the Immaculate Conception, he could not be termed a heretic for so doing.

But Orthodoxy, while for the most part denying the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, firmly believes in her Bodily Assumption (Immediately after the Pope proclaimed the Assumption as a dogma in 1950, a few Orthodox (by way of reaction against the Roman Catholic Church) began to express doubts about the Bodily Assumption and even explicitly to deny it; but they are certainly not representative of the Orthodox Church as a whole). Like the rest of mankind, Our Lady underwent physical death, but in her case the Resurrection of the Body has been anticipated: after death her body was taken up or ‘assumed’ into heaven and her tomb was found to be empty. She has passed beyond death and judgement, and lives already in the Age to Come. Yet she is not thereby utterly separated from the rest of humanity, for that same bodily glory which Mary enjoys now, all of us hope one day to share.

Belief in the Assumption of the Mother of God is clearly and unambiguously affirmed in the hymns sung by the Church on 15 August, the Feast of the ‘Dormition’ or ‘Falling Asleep.’ But Orthodoxy, unlike Rome, has never proclaimed the Assumption as a dogma, nor would it ever wish to do so. The doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation have been proclaimed as dogmas, for they belong to the public preaching of the Church; but the glorification of Our Lady belongs to the Church’s inner Tradition: ‘It is hard to speak and not less hard to think about the mysteries which the Church keeps in the hidden depths of her inner consciousness ... The Mother of God was never a theme of the public preaching of the Apostles; while Christ was preached on the housetops, and proclaimed for all to know in an initiatory teaching addressed to the whole world, the mystery of his Mother was revealed only to those who were within the Church … It is not so much an object of faith as a foundation of our hope, a fruit of faith, ripened in Tradition. Let us therefore keep silence, and let us not try to dogmatize about the supreme glory of the Mother of God’ (V. Lossky, ‘Panagia,’ in The Mother of God, edited by E. L. Mascall, p. 35).

 

The last things

For the Christian there exist but two ultimate alternatives, Heaven and Hell. The Church awaits the final consummation of the end, which in Greek theology is termed the apocatastasis or ‘restoration,’ when Christ will return in great glory to judge both the living and the dead. This final apocatastasis involves, as we have seen, the redemption and the glorification of matter: at the Last Day the righteous will rise from the grave and be united once more to a body — not such a body as we now possess, but one that is transfigured and ‘spiritual,’ in which inward sanctity is made outwardly manifest. And not only man’s body but the whole material order will be transformed: God will create a New Heaven and a New Earth.

But Hell exists as well as Heaven. In recent years many Christians — not only in the west, but at times also in the Orthodox Church — have come to feel that the idea of Hell is inconsistent with belief in a loving God. But to argue thus is to display a sad and perilous confusion of thought. While it is true that God loves us with an infinite love, it is also true that He has given us free will; and since we have free will, it is possible for us to reject God. Since free will exists, Hell exists; for Hell is nothing else than the rejection of God. If we deny Hell, we deny free will. ‘No one is so good and full of pity as God,’ wrote Mark the Monk or Hermit (early fifth century); ‘but even He does not forgive those who do not repent’ (On those who think to be justified from works, 71 (P.G. 65, 940D). God will not force us to love Him, for love is no longer love if it is not free; how then can God reconcile to Himself those who refuse all reconciliation?

The Orthodox attitude towards the Last Judgment and Hell is clearly expressed in the choice of Gospel readings at the Liturgy on three successive Sundays shortly before Lent. On the first Sunday is read the parable of the Publican and Pharisee, on the second the parable of the Prodigal Son, stories which illustrate the immense forgiveness and mercy of God towards all sinners who repent. But in the Gospel for the third Sunday — the parable of the Sheep and the Goats — we are reminded of the other truth: that it is possible to reject God and to turn away from Him to Hell. "Then shall He say to those on the left hand, The curse of God is upon you, go from my sight into everlasting fire" (Matt. 25:41).

There is no terrorism in the Orthodox doctrine of God. Orthodox Christians do not cringe before Him in abject fear, but think of Him as philanthropos, the ‘lover of men.’ Yet they keep in mind that Christ at His Second Coming will come as judge.

Hell is not so much a place where God imprisons man, as a place where man, by misusing his free will, chooses to imprison himself. And even in Hell the wicked are not deprived of the love of God, but by their own choice they experience as suffering what the saints experience as joy. ‘The love of God will be an intolerable torment for those who have not acquired it within themselves’ (V. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, p. 234).

Hell exists as a final possibility, but several of the Fathers have none the less believed that in the end all will be reconciled to God. It is heretical to say that all must be saved, for this is to deny free will; but it is legitimate to hope that all may be saved. Until the Last Day comes, we must not despair of anyone’s salvation, but must long and pray for the reconciliation of all without exception. No one must be excluded from our loving intercession. ‘What is a merciful heart?’ asked Isaac the Syrian. ‘It is a heart that burns with love for the whole of creation, for men, for the birds, for the beasts, for the demons, for all creatures’ (Mystic Treatises, edited by A. J. Wensinck, Amsterdam, 1923, p. 341). Gregory of Nyssa said that Christians may legitimately hope even for the redemption of the Devil.

The Bible ends upon a note of keen expectation: "Surely I am coming quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20). In the same spirit of eager hope the primitive Christians used to pray: ‘Let grace come and let this world pass away’ (Didache, 10, 6). From one point of view the first Christians were wrong: they imagined that the end of the world would occur almost immediately, whereas in fact two millennia have passed and still the end has not yet come. It is not for us to know the times and the seasons, and perhaps this present order will last for many millennia more. Yet from another point of view the primitive Church was right. For whether the end comes early or late, it is always imminent, always spiritually close at hand, even though it may not be temporally close. The Day of the Lord will come "as a thief in the night" (1 Thess. 5:2) at an hour when men expect it not. Christians, therefore, as in Apostolic times, so today must always be prepared, waiting in constant expectation. One of the most encouraging signs of revival in contemporary Orthodoxy is the renewed awareness among many Orthodox of the Second Coming and its relevance. ‘When a pastor on a visit to Russia asked what is the burning problem of the Russian Church, a priest replied without hesitation: the Parousia (P. Evdokimov, L’Orthodoxie, p. 9 (Parousia: the Greek term for the Second Coming)).

Yet the Second Coming is not simply an event in the future, for in the life of the Church, the Age to Come has already begun to break through into this present age. For members of God’s Church, the ‘Last Times’ are already inaugurated, since here and now Christians enjoy the first fruits of God’s Kingdom. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. He comes already — in the Holy Liturgy and the worship of the Church.

 

 

ЧИТАТЬ ДАЛЬШЕ:
Orthodox Worship I


Introduction
1. The Beginnings
2. Byzantium, I: The Church of the Seven Councils
   The establishment of an imperial Church
   The first Six Councils (325-681)
   The holy icons
   Saints, monks, and emperors
3. Byzantium, II: The Great Schism
   The estrangement of Eastern and Western Christendom
   From estrangement to schism: 858-1204
   Two attempts at reunion; the hesychast controversy
4. The Conversion of the Slavs
   Cyril and Methodius
   The Baptism of Russia: The Kiev Period (988-1237)
   The Russian Church Under the Mongols (1237-1448)
5. The Church under Islam
   Imperium in Imperio
   Reformation and Counter-Reformation: their double impact
6. Moscow and Petersburg
   Moscow the third Rome
   The schism of the Old Believers
   The Synodical period (1700-1917)
7. The twentieth century, I: Greeks and Arabs
8. The twentieth century, II: Orthodoxy and the Militant Atheists (1)
8. The twentieth century, II: Orthodoxy and the Militant Atheists (2)
9. The twentieth century, III: Diaspora and Mission (1)
9. The twentieth century, III: Diaspora and Mission (2)
   Western Orthodoxy
   Missions

10. Holy Tradition
   Inner Meaning of Tradition
   Outward Forms
11. God and Man
   God in Trinity
   Man: His Creation, His Vocation, His Failure
   Jesus Christ
   The Holy Spirit
   'Partakers of the Divine Nature'
12. The Church of God
   God and His Church
   Unity and Infallibility of the Church
   Bishops : Laity : Councils
   Living and Dead
   Last Things
13. Orthodox Worship I: Service
   Doctrine and Worship
   Outward Setting of Services
14. Orthodox Worship II: Sacraments
   Baptism
   Chrismation
   Eucharist
   Repentance
   Holy Orders
   Marriage
   Anointing
15. Orthodox Worship III: Feasts and Fasts
   Christian Year
   Private Prayer
16. Orthodox Church and Reunion of Christians
   One Holy Catholic Church
   Relations with Other Communions
   Learning from One Another






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