Sunday, October 16, 2005

What God has joined let no man sunder

I was daydreaming this morning about one day writing a book about the East-West Schism. Unoriginal and straightforward enough, right? Well, actually, rather than analyzing the typical factors -- theological methodology, cultural pressures, diplomatic gaffes, crusades, excommunications, heresies and the like -- I wanted to make it a love story, of sorts. Since Christianity is fundamentally a marriage – between Heaven and Earth, between the Sheep and the Shepherd, between the Holy and the Forgiven, between all peoples and the Three Persons at one Table – we must view the Church too as a marital saga. A long, long time ago, the East and the West lived as one married couple. They exchanged theological and financial goods, gave birth to children, learned from each other – and also often wounded each other. At some point, the estrangement grew to be too much, and the couple separated. Yet, mysteriously, they could never be divorced, for God had joined them around that one marital Feast, for better or for worse.

Hence, in telling the story of the Church in East and West, I would like to make my saga a history of exchanged love, both verbal and practical, between these spouses. The rhetorical courtesies bandied about between bishops should not be shelved as outdated customs, but should be re-announced as a sacred deposit of love. Love, after all, is stronger than death, and far stronger than schism. I dream of this history as a movingly humane, and perhaps embarrassingly human, testament in a dispute that is overwhelmingly driven by polemical differences.

Idealistic? You bet your scapulars it is! Naïve? You can bet your bottom antidoro! Simplistic? You can bet your Inter-Communion Ecumenical Comission on it! But, by God, we need such daft naïveté! We need to reverse the “polemical polarity” with a flood of sweet nostalgia, fond memories and loving words between a husband and wife who, for now, can only tolerate to live in separate houses. How silly it is to say we deem the other to be, techincally, orthodox on this or that point after a prolonged theolgoical examination, when we fail the whole time to proclaim loudly and unabashedly, "I love you in our shared Eucharistic bliss, O Easterner! I love you in our sahred, beloved Jesus, o Westerner!" Far from smothering over differences with sweet words, my (daydreamed!) history aims to put the disputes in the right light, namely, the light of Love.

Eastern Orthodox homework for the week: find out one new fact about the Western Tradition and share it appreciatively with a Catholic. Also, say, "I love you."

Catholic homework for the week: find out one new fact about the Eastern Tradition and share it appreciatively with an Eastern Orthodox. Also, say, "I love you."

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