Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Yeah, well, so...

0 comment(s)
The end of the semester has been a bit, for me, a bit, hm, busy, yes?

Editing textbooks, re-editing textbooks, having numerous going-away parties and dinners for mission friends, writing letters, preaching, prepping for World Youth Day -- I'm not complaining, but goodness, FCA has gotten a wee bit dusty!

I've officially become a morning person (6-6:30 AM rising, even if I slept late the night before), not the least because of the construction noise across the street starts up, right in time with the surprisingly bright ambient morning light, about 7 AM most days. It's been great really having some unrushed time with God each morning.

My retreat to Jing Shan (to do the Ignatian Exercises) is a no-go. Both available fathers turn out in fact not be available. All the same, I plan to contact some French monks in Tainan to travel together to WYD, or at least meet up somewhere in Europe. I may even retreat with them at their farm-monastery in July.

As far as my biznass goes, I'm still not out of the woods, but I just wanted to give the line a tug. "But Aw'm nawt dead yet!"

BTW, [blegging]if any generous readers would like to get me a birthday (9 July 1979) gift (or ten), have a look at my Amazon wish list.[/blegging] Hmm, my first Catholic birthday. Cool.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The drama of the Catholic gestalt?

0 comment(s)
A reader decided to engage me a bit about my patristic evidence regarding the supremacy of Rome.

Here’s my reply (for now):

Thanks for your efforts to reply. I must admit you sounded a little snide in your opening remarks, as if you are out to "school me" and my whole silly proof-texting thing. I hope neither of us comes across that way to each other, though.

As for the substance of your replies, first, qualifying or questioning a few parts of a few initial quotes is only the beginning. I’m looking for patient, articulate guidance among this evidence in order to see how the frequent claim that "it does, it really does!" jive with Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology can stand up to the Fathers. Thus, for example, allow me to re-post some of the most pungent patristic papal propaganda. ;)

+ St. Ephraem the Syrian (ca. A.D. 350):

"Then Peter deservedly received the Vicariate of Christ over His people."
(Ephraem, Sermon de Martyrio. SS. App. Petri et Pauli)

[As if spoken by Jesus:] "Simon my follower, I have made you the foundation of My holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of all who will build on earth a Church for Me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which My teaching flows, you are the chief of My disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is the life-giving sweetness which I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the first-born in My institution, and so that, as the heir, you may be the executor of all My treasures. I have given you the keys of My Kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all My treasures!

"To whom, O Lord, didst Thou entrust that most precious pledge of the heavenly keys? To Bar Jonas, the Prince of the Apostles, with whom, I implore Thee, may I share Thy bridal chamber...Our Lord chose Simon Peter and appointed him chief of the Apostles, foundation of the holy Church and guardian of His establishment. He appointed him head of the Apostles and commanded him to feed His flock and teach it laws for preserving the purity of its beliefs."
(Ephraem, Homilies, 4:1, 350 A.D.)

+ Opatatus (c. 367 A.D.):

"In the city of Rome the Episcopal chair was given first to Peter, the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head — that is why he is also called Cephas [Rock] — of all the Apostles, the one chair in which unity is maintained by all. Neither do the Apostles proceed individually on their own, and anyone who would presume to set up another chair in opposition to that single chair would, by that very fact, be a schismatic and a sinner.... Recall then the origins of your chair, those of you who wish to claim for yourselves the title of holy Church."
(Opatatus, The Schism of the Donatists, 2:2)

+ Asterius (A.D. 400):

"In order that he may show his power, God has endowed none of his disciples with gifts like Peter. But, having raised him with heavenly gifts, he has set him above all ... as first disciple and greater among the brethren, ... [and thus] has shown, by the test of deeds, the power of the Spirit. The first to be called, he followed at once.... The Saviour confided to this man, as some special trust, the whole universal Church, after having asked him three times 'Lovest thou me?'. And he receive the world in charge..."
(Homily 8, in GILES, 145-146)

+ Macedonius, Patriarch of Constantinople (A.D. 466-516):

"Macedonius declared, when desired by the Emperor Anastasius to condemn the Council of Chalcedon, that 'such a step without an Ecumenical Synod presided over by the Pope of Rome is impossible.'"
(Macedonius, Patr. Graec. 108: 360a [Theophan. Chronogr. pp. 234-346 seq.])

+ St. Maximus the Confessor (ca. AD 580-662), a celebrated theologian and a native of Constantinople:

"The extremities of the earth, and everyone in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the Most Holy Roman Church and her confession and faith, as to a sun of unfailing light awaiting from her the brilliant radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers, according to that which the inspired and holy Councils have stainlessly and piously decreed. For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High."
(Maximus, Opuscula theologica et polemica [A.D. 650], in PG 91:137-144)

"How much more in the case of the clergy and Church of the Romans, which from old until now presides over all the churches which are under the sun? Having surely received this canonically, as well as from councils and the apostles, as from the princes of the latter [Peter & Paul], and being numbered in their company, she is subject to no writings or issues in synodical documents, on account of the eminence of her pontificate... even as in all these things all are equally subject to her [the Church of Rome] according to sacerodotal law. And so when, without fear, but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers [the popes] are of the truly firm and immovable rock, that is of the most great and Apostolic Church of Rome."
(Maximus, in J.B. Mansi, ed. Amplissima Collectio Conciliorum, vol. 10)

"I was afraid of being thought to transgress the holy laws, if I were to do this [write this letter to Peter – EBB] without knowing the will of the most holy see of Apostolic men, who lead aright the whole plenitude of the Catholic Church, and rule it with order according to the divine law. ... If the Roman See recognizes Pyrrhus to be not only a reprobate but a heretic, it is certainly plain that everyone who anathematizes those who have rejected Pyrrhus also anathematizes the See of Rome, that is, he anathematizes the Catholic Church. I need hardly add that he excommunicates himself also, if indeed he is in communion with the Roman See and the Catholic Church of God ...Let him hasten before all things to satisfy the Roman See, for if it is satisfied, all will agree in calling him pious and orthodox. For he only speaks in vain who... does not satisfy and implore the blessed Pope of the most holy Catholic Church of the Romans, that is, the Apostolic See, which is from the incarnate of the Son of God Himself, and also [from] all the holy synods, according to the holy canons and definitions, has received universal and surpreme dominion, authority, and power of binding and loosing over all the holy churches of God throughout the whole world. -- for with it the Word who is above the celestial powers binds and looses in heaven also. For if he thinks he must satisfy others, and fails to implore the most blessed Roman pope, he is acting like a man who, when accused of murder or some other crime, does not hasten to prove his innocence to the judge appointed by the law, but only uselessly and without profit does his best to demonstrate his innocence to private individuals, who have no power to acquit him.
(Maximus, ca. AD 642, in Mansi x, 692)

+ St. Theodore the Studite of Constantinople, a giant in Eastern monasticism (759-826):

>> Writing to Pope Leo III...

"Since to great Peter Christ our Lord gave the office of Chief Shepherd after entrusting him with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, to Peter or his successor must of necessity every novelty in the Catholic Church be referred. [Therefore], save us, oh most divine Head of Heads, Chief Shepherd of the Church of Heaven."
(Theodore, Bk. I. Ep. 23)

Such evidence can be extended and expanded from East to West, from the firs to the eleventh centuries. But I hope these suffice to show that, so to speak, non-Catholics have a lot explaining to do if you want to see eye to eye with our common forebears about their deference to Rome.

Second, in your zeal to explode my proof-texts (with... yet more proof-texts), I'm afraid you've missed my overall point: the early (and Eastern) Church once proclaimed -- as well as liturgically enshrined -- papal supremacy in its theandric life, but Eastern Orthodoxy now appears simply incapable or unwilling to face up to that heritage, mainly because of a lot of Western scandal and a lot of theological miscommunication.

A practical outworking of my main point is to ask you simply and genuinely, on the appropriate feast days, to say "Amen!" -- with a clear conscience -- to the memory of Popes St. Leo, Gregory, Hormisdas, et al. who explicitly defined and lived papal supremacy. Take a lok at their papalism, and especially at the East's affirmation of it (e.g., Acacian schism, Formula of Hormisdas, Robber Synod, Tome of Leo, Photian and Florentine reaffirmation of Hormisdan formula, etc.), and see how your attitudes today might square with that. The "rub" that I see is that your own liturgy has "swallowed" this bitter Roman pill and I simply am at a loss to see how you can digest it -- the absolutely Petrine nature of the Church – as an Eastern Orthodox. That, not who has the sweetest quotes, is my main point.

Now, hopefully to show the probative force of my silly prooftexts in the correct larger context, let me emphasize a few points that I think get lost in the polemics. First, we must be honest about something: no matter how much sweat and fire Orthodox (or Anglicans for that matter) work up against Rome's heresies, Orthodoxy, by its own criteria of ecclesial authority, lacks the ability to "bust" Rome. Orthodoxy -- "the Church of the First Seven Councils" (mutatis mutandis) -- regards the councils and their canons as their highest canonical authority. But what truly ecumenical council -- e.g., pre-Schism -- ever condemned the Immaculate Conception of our Lady? Or defined Palamism as the divine truth? Or stipulated for a council to "take" without papal ratification? Or declared the invalidity of Catholic sacraments? And so on. You may dislike Rome's developments after these councils, but, short of calling an ecumenical council right quick, I simply fail to see how you, or any Orthodox Christian, can credibly say Rome actually violated one of the ecumenical councils.

A second guiding reservation I have towards Orthodoxy is the questionableness of autocephalism. As Henri De Lubac, S.J., says in his essay "Petrine Office and Particular Churches",

There has never been a Christianity without Church, and there has never been a universal Church without particular churches. Wherever the Eucharist is celebrated, the Catholic Church is present whole and undivided. The bishop of the most insignificant market town is in this respect, as St Jerome observes, the equal of the bishop of Rome.

But there were never any autonomous particular churches which then joined together in a federation to form a universal church, any more than the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus subsequently came together on their own initiative.

This, the development of autocephalism in modern Eastern Orthodoxy, is a serious challenge to the traditional (and I do mean Traditional) “givenness” of the Church. Autocephalies are bureaucratic creations; but are they the fullest and truest expression of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church? Alleged papal "megalocephaly" is one thing, but certainly Orthodox "polycephaly" has its own serious difficulties. Though it's tempting, I refuse to sucker punch Orthodoxy with the charge of "unruly", "chaotic" jurisdiction -- "Too many cooks int he kitchen!" My point is not whether autocephaly works or not -- as if religion were about results! ;) -- but that it skews the intended form Christ wills for the Church. It may work, but it's not, I believe, how Christ wills His Body, His house, to function.

This point becomes more significant when we consider the infant structure, or primal gestalt, of the Church. The paradosis came to all Christians, and comes to us, in more than verbal terms. It comes to us, in fact, in phenomenological, even dramatic, vividness and concreteness. This "dramatic catechesis" – typically known as Tradition – finds its greatest expression and continuation in the Eucharist. Just as the sacrifice of our Lord continues in the drama of the Eucharistic liturgy, realizing and applying his mercy into every age, so too the Church gathered around the risen, crucified Lord must continue in the same phenomenological integrity that Christ first gave it. To cite de Lubac again at some length (op. cit.),

The collegial bond links every particular church with all other churches, each church leader with all others, since all together are responsible as a corporate body for the tradition of Christ. And within this universal network, of which the one Church of God is composed, there exists a center, an obligatory point of reference: The particular church of Rome, which is led by the successor of Peter, the "first" of the Twelve, as Matthew's expression has it. Fundamentally the Church, in the words of Mark and Luke, is "Peter and those who are with him." ...

“[Citing Schleier,] In the epilogue to John's Gospel, "Simon Peter who in the Gospel itself already stands out preeminently among the Twelve (Jn 1: 42; 6: 68ff.; 13; 18; 20: l ff.), in a symbolic scene brings fishes to the Risen Lord in his net (Jn 21: 10f.). Jesus solemnly entrusts to him the 'flock' to feed (21: 14fl). The Church is one. And it is the Church of Peter. The risen Jesus committed to him (in the company of the Twelve) the harvest and the draught of fishes and the pasturing." ...

But as the Protestant theologian Jean-Jacques von Allmen remarks, Jesus also says in Luke 22: "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail ... strengthen your brethren", he entrusts Peter with this function "in the framework of the Eucharist", that is to say, "in the framework of what Jesus willed to endure until his return".

Consequently we have every reason to say with Jacques Guillet in his recent book on Jesus, "The Church is already present there in Caesarea. It already speaks, it already receives all its authority from Jesus, in the confirmation he gives to Peter ... such was the Church at its source, so it remains throughout the centuries..." Furthermore, it is normal to think that if nothing is said to the contrary, the unity of the particular churches among themselves must mirror the unity that linked the apostles. ...

What can be reconstructed in regard to the first few centuries, shows us the bishop of Rome in his double role as center and as arbitrator. "It is one of our synodal laws", observes St Avitus of Vienne, for example, "if any doubt arises in anything that concerns the state of the Church, to have recourse to the great bishop of the Roman Church, just as the members of the body are subordinate to the head." Even in times when various objections were raised on the part of the East, people knew that that was the law of salvation in difficult matters. Thus the Patriarch of Constantinople wrote to Pope Hormisdas, "With the apostolic see the Catholic religion is always preserved unimpaired." ...

The only thing that matters--but it is of vital importance -- is to uphold the authentic role of Peter's successor--that of embodying the "form of unity" of the successors of the apostles.

As de Lubac, and any other ecclesiologist worth his salt (a la Meyendorff's _The Primacy of Peter_ or de Satge's _Peter and the Single Church_), shows, the Church’s primal gestalt unquestionably had a Petrine “center of gravity.” This same Petrine gestalt *must* continue in any Church that claims to be the embodiment of the primal Church. But where is Peter today in Eastern Orthodoxy? Say what you will about papal abuses, at least in the Catholic -- and primal -- Church *there is a Peter* to do some abusing! To say Peter is unnecessary is outrageous, since our Lord so clearly rooted Peter in the infant Church’s order and consciousness, thus obliging us to heed the contours of the Church's primal drama. To say Peter is in the patriarch of Constantinople or Russia or some other “stand-in” is silly, as probably every Orthodox Chritian would insist. To say Peter is, along the lines of Afanassieff’s “Eucharistic ecclesiology”, in every local bishop only begs the question: What about the supra-local (universal) Church? Arguing that Peter is simply the episcopal head of a local church completely distorts the primal apostolic gestalt, since Peter was the Rock *among the apostles*. Thus, to say each local bishop is Peter, wholly and truly, is to say the priests, deacons and laity are the successors of the other apostles as well! Further, suggesting so radically that each church does not, fundamentally, need the Petrine axis that the Catholic Church still preserves is to seriously risk a fragmentalization and apathy towards our Christian neighbors who happen to be outside the jurisdiction of "our" local Peter. To say each local church exists adequately without other churches’ apostolic successors challenges the unity of the churches as the Church.

What other Apostle so clearly has, and had, his living, authoritative succession connected to a single city? James? Maybe so. Andrew? Maybe. John? Hardly. Paul? He’s in Rome too. Only Peter – and Peter in Rome – has been understood by the Church as *the* head of the apostles, a headship which clearly outsized the exact margins of "the Twelve" (as Paul refers to more than a few apostles in his epistles). Biblically, the apostles were and are understood as the tenders of the Church in a general sense. Only Peter, however, is and was recognized to be the divinely appointed coryphaeus and prince of the Apostles in a concrete – and concretely Roman – sense. Thus, to admit our need for Peter is to admit our need for Rome. To cite de Lubac once more:

"It will be noted [in the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians]", says the Orthodox theologian Nicolas Afanassieff, "that the Roman Church does not consider it necessary to justify its intervention in any way; it has no doubt that its preeminence will be accepted without discussion." And that is what happened; its rebuke was respectfully accepted. About the year A. D. 170, Dionysius of Corinth wrote to Pope Soter that the Letter of Clement was still read in the liturgical assemblies; and this continued to be done for centuries in various regions of East and West.

Third, let’s leave aside the issue of papal infallibility. The real problem for Eastern Orthodoxy, as for Protestantism, is its lack of a concrete, incarnational, Petrine center of unity. The Church, like every organism, has a center of gravity. The Catholic Church has this center. But in Orthodoxy? Autocephalous centers of gravity. Admittedly non-Petrine collegiality. In short, a warped development of the Church’s infant wholeness. By my lights, Orthodoxy clearly and I suppose willingly lacks the authentic apostolic “form of unity” given us in the paradosis. It is in this light, and this divinely cast phenomenological light alone, that papal infallibility has any use, let alone makes any sense. The reality Protestants must face is that ecclesial infallibility is a part of the deposit of faith because a teaching order (magisterium) is a part of the deposit of the faith, as well as because, as Newman said, infallibility is a necessary corollary of inspiration. The reality Orthodox must face, though, is that Petrine infallibility is a part of the deposit of faith because Petrine authority is essential to the teaching order as the living successors of the apostles. Pastoral authority necessitates infallibility, since for God to give a non-infallible head to the heads he gave to the Church, would be effectively to hoodwink the Church. As Stanley Jaki says in Keys of the Kingdom,

[In Protestantism, ecclesiastical] superiors are not yet simply written off, perhaps because it is written in the Scriptures: “Obey your leaders and submit to them for they keep watch over you as men who must render account” (Heb 13:17). But it is also instinctively realized that on the basis of the gospel-alone logic one remains always entitled to question anyone who presents himself as the leader or superior, with the words, “That is the question,” words almost as old as Christianity, according to the observation of St. Ignatius of Antioch. Debates about the keys of the kingdom will go on forever unless Christians steep themselves not so much in reading the Bible as in the attitude invariably urged there, the attitude of loyal adherence to those who were sent to speak with authority. Such adherence was conjured up by Christ who said to the twelve after having washed their feet: “I solemnly assure you, he who accepts anyone I send accepts me, and in accepting me accepts him who sent me” (Jn 13:20). Giovanni Perrone, S.J., one of the influential theologians blamed by some nowadays for Vatican I, was therefore on most biblical grounds when he pointed out that Christians must adhere to the pope not because he is infallible; but since they must, on divine command, adhere to the pope, he has to be infallible.

Loyalty to the Pope is but a consequence of our loyalty to the primal gestalt of teh Church formed by Christ Himself. For all the singular press (good and bad, Catholic and non-Catholic) that the dogma of papal infallibility gets, it is, in its purest reality, not a singular doctrine at all. It is a wholly ecclesial and collegial truth, insofar as papal infallibility is merely a device in the larger service of the Church as the pillar and foundation of the truth. This notorious dogma is actually a quite modest theological effort by the Church to come to terms, or to better articulate and thus "own", already existing the *theandric reality* given to us by Christ, much as the Trinitarian dogmas were and are theological epiphanies expressed in the Church to articulate and "own" the already thriving reality of Trinitarian worship.

I submit to the pope’s infallibility because I submit to God’s ordination of the pope as our Peter, our coryphaeus. Far from pitting orthodoxy against authority, Jesus shows us that Peter was called the Rock precisely in his divinely guarded profession of orthodoxy. I do not pretend to be able to see above my pastors through all ages into a Church without Peter. I refuse to indulge in the luxury of private judgment (whether by being really well-read or for simply not liking how the West or East does things). Like it or not, this is what it means to be Catholic.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Movers and shakers

0 comment(s)
The move into my new aprtment is 95% done! One big van-load (half books, tee hee!) on Saturday and then a couple taxi rides with bags of miscellany. I'll probably make one more trip to bundle all the little things and then I'll be in for good. The apartment is big and simple and I really like the location. Though I have no Internet, there is a 24-hour Internet cafe half ablock away, so bills and correspondence are still feasible.

I blew a fuse last night (literally) changing bulbs, so right now a good segment of my apartment (including my office and bedroom!) have no power. So much for writing that test last night... [sulk]. The good news is that even though I blew a *fuse*, *I* didn't blow a fuse!

As much as I'd like to "keep up" with blogdom (esp. at Papal Ponty's, e.g.), I can tell that urge is like DTs: a necessary phase to pass through on the way to freedom. I've slept at the new palce two nights now, and it's been great just going to bed. No Internet, no chatting, no stupid videos, etc. No problem.

Last day at Providence University today (till fall semester). Yet more goodbyes. ;)

I'm at work now, and I do need to write that test. Sew, buy buy dill necks thyme!

The Church that prays together, stays together

1 comment(s)
A truism only outmatched in truth by the fact that the Church that IS together -- is one -- prays together. [well-meaning triumphalism]The Catholic Church's unity as a fundamental and irrevocable divine endowment enables it to pray as widely across eras and cultures and as deeply in heart and mind as only it does.[/well-meaning triumphalism]

In the now incredibly long thread at Papal Ponty's concerning why he did not choose to become Eastern Orthodox, an Orthodox reader asked how the Catholic Church could seriously claim to appreciate the Eastern Church if it doesn't even venerate Eastern saints. Papal Ponty reasonably enough suggested, "[P]erhaps you should ask some Byzantine and Melkite Catholics about the saints they venerate.”

The Orthodox reader was nonplussed:

So, they venerate St. John of Kronstadt and St. Seraphim of Sarov? Really? Consider me unconvinced, Father. Does the Latin Church venerate the Saints of the Byzantine Rite? If not, isn’t this a bit strange considering they are supposedly 'one church'?

To which I relpied:

Be fair. If the vast cultural and canonical diversity of Orthodoxy does not vitiate its oneness as the Church, why should the same diversity argue against Catholicism’s unity? Unity is not uniformity. Analogy: “So do Russians speak French and eat French food all the time? So much for there being 'one humanity'. Consider me unconvinced.” Huh?

Let me add that, having spoken at some length with a Macedonian Orthodox only a few weeks ago about this very issue, I have no illusions about the severe national-cultural estrangement between some of the Orthodox autocephalies and semi-autocephalies. He told me about how Greece once granted Macedonia autocephaly, with the other patriarchs signing on too, but then revoking that privilege some time later. He also spoke about how this fallout led to severe persecution by Greece against “Macedonian Orthodox” and how even today is your I.D. shows you come from certain areas in Macedonia, you are forbidden access to Greece. His words, not mine.

I mention this since I too wait with baited breath to see how Orthodoxy will deal with the ever-increasing atomization and tribalism of the postmodern world (I call it "micro-phyletism"). Obviously, the Orthodox Church rejects phyletism and racism (dogmatically, as of 1896, if I’m not mistaken). Nationalism among big tottering world powers is one thing, but relentless sectarianism based on minute political and ideological aims is QUITE something else. According to at least one former Orthodox who comments here fairly regularly and always intelligently, the problem of phyletism the USA, not to mention any of it in other countries, is the sole reason he is no longer Orthodox. In effect, he says, the Orthodox Church in America is guilty of base heresy, plain and simple. How this lethal cancer is not also present in the communities that started these phyletic bodies in the USA and how it will not spread in our ever-fragmenting geo-political-transgendered-pluralistic- polyvocal-polysexual-polyethical- etc. multiverse – how Orthodoxy, in short, has survuved or will survive creeping phyletism and micro-phyletism is beyond me. But -- I am of the good hope God will preserve his people – which for me as a Catholic, of course, means the ultimate union of the East and West on the Rock of Peter in the Rock of Christ.

Further, to address the particular issue of Eastern piety in the West, one reason most Latin Catholics do not, practically speaking, venerate Byzantine Catholic saints is because, well, um, they're not Byzantine Catholics. The difference is that in the Catholic Church, all rites in union (i.e., in union with Rome) are ALLOWED to and ENCOURAGED to drink from each other’s wells (see JPII’s superb _Lumen Orientalum_). Catholics don’t venerate John of Kronstadt and Seraphim of Sarov because, as Catholics, they simply lack the ecclesial permission and guidance to do so. Like it or not, while Catholics are free to explore all kinds of things, being Catholic does entail us to obey the limits set by our pastors in many areas. As St. Paul said the Corinthians, "All things are acceptable, but — perhaps — not all things are beneficial." A Catholic, like any Chrsitian, has a duty to protect his faith. Sad to say, as things stand, the Catholic Church has told the faithful only very few post-Schism Orthodox heroes are safe for the preservation of their faith. Being enriched by those saints insights is great, but the question "At what cost?" must also factor in.

A second reason most Roman Catholics don't "get into" Eastern piety is because, let’s be honest, we have really dropped the ball out of smugness, apathy and xenophobia for quite some time. Vatican II made a serious call to Western Catholics to get off their asses and get into the East. But this renewal, fueled by humility, repentance and PRAYER, takes time. As for my part, if you'll notice, not only is my blog named in honor of St. Innocent (Veniaminov), not only are Sts. Cyril and Methodius two of my (and my blog's) chief patron saints, but I also take it as serious personal duty to read Orthodox material AND attend Orthodox liturgy (in Taiwan!) at least once every six weeks. (For example, have a look see here.) Many of us are trying not only in word but also in deed to bridge the gap. [E.g., look here]

In the meantime, it would be nice if you could back off a bit with about ungrateful, anti-Eastern Catholics and our alleged disunity. I can assure you the Catholic Church is — and is officially determined to be — big enough for the riches of the East to THRIVE in her one flock. Should you ever become a Catholic, your obvious love for the light of the East would not only find a home in Rome, but would also in itself work to deepen the Western Church’s growth in Easternness. Pardon my vividness, but standing on your side of the chasm with your arms crossed and a pouting lip doesn't do a whole lot of good.

Ut unum sint! Mater ecclesiae, ora pro nobis!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Standing offer

0 comment(s)
I begin moving to a new apartment tomorrow. Additionally, I must write a final test by Monday for my students and finish revising the fall textbook byu June 24. And let's not forget all those serious financial and bureaucratic worries I keep forgetting to remmeber. My time will be slightly more strained than usual. (Boo hoo, I know.) Since I may or not be back on the blog for a while, I wanted to leave a sort of "open mike" here about an issue in the Orthodoxy-Catholic debate.

During the recent (very good) discussions I've been involved in at Papal Ponty's, one Orthodox reader I know replied to me at some length about things I'd said in the same discussion to a Catholic having serious conflicts about official Catholic dogmas. The Orthodox said:

As to spoof texting, that was exactly my point. Both are examples of it. I for one for example have not seen any Catholic here attempt to make sense of the passage that Daniel cited [see here] until you. Moreover, nothing in your citation says jack squat about princely infallibility nor of any non-episcopal chrism granted to the bishop of Rome.

Moreover, have fun making the Papal statments there comport with Vigilius’ self confessed “irreformable” judgments in the previous council, that the Council tossed aside until the Pope rejected his own “irreformable” judgment and conformed to the Council’s judgement concerning the Three Chapters. There is more to the Papal theory than “prince of the Apostles” and continued witness to the Apostolic deposit it received. Those quotes don’t give us the “more” of the theory and since they don’t, they seem quite compatible with other ecclesiastical models.

Moreover, on the Papal theory it may be an apostolic chrism in so far as it was given to one apostle but it most certainly isn’t an Episcopal Chrism. The Pope need not act with the bishops as he can topple Ecumenical Councils. The Pope doesn’t derive his authority or office as vicar from the bishops as other bishops do.

I then made the following reply (mutatis mutandis):

I am about to pull your least favorite stunt: quoting the Fathers in “raw” form. As much as it pains you, or as “fundy” and naïve as it may seem to you, I do this (again) for three reasons.

First, to keep the discussion rooted in mostly concrete data. (Very specifically, you challenged me on the “princely” chrism/status of Peter and Rome. I deign to let the Fathers – and your own Eastern liturgy – defend that notion.)

Second, to present you (et al.) with yet more patristic reasons to give more (much more!) credit to the notion of the Church’s Petrine center of gravity.

Third, to highlight a basic difference in our dialogical methods.

More than once you have said my “spoof-texting” has no traction since it *could* just as easily fit into another ecclesiological scheme. Fair enough (I gueeeess). The problem is that, while I have provided a great deal of patristic evidence in support of the notion that the facts not only *could* but, as a present and ancient reality, *do* comport better with the Catholic Church – you have given me one patristic quote to the contrary.

Further, when you did give me the Cons II quote (twice now), I made the effort to understand it from a larger exegetical and Catholic perspective. As for you? So far I have not seen you (or anyone else for that matter) address a single quote from my “silly” patristic florilegium and show how, here and now, by and large, the Fathers' papalism *does* comport with contemporary Eastern Orthodox theology.


As Henri du Lubac, S.J. says in his essay "Petrine Office and Particular Churches",

There has never been a Christianity without Church, and there has never been a universal Church without particular churches. Wherever the Eucharist is celebrated, the Catholic Church is present whole and undivided. The bishop of the most insignificant market town is in this respect, as St Jerome observes, the equal of the bishop of Rome.

But there were never any autonomous particular churches which then joined together in a federation to form a universal church [a la Orthodoxy's autocephaly-system -- EBB], any more than the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus subsequently came together on their own initiative.]

Please note well that this is not a “patristic pissing contest,” as if the very fact that I have quoted more Fathers more times means I win. No. My point is that, if the way you choose to address my patristic evidence is to deflect it into “some other” theological scheme (theological akido?) – and thus out of the exclusive hands of Rome – then I (and other readers, I’m sure) would really appreciate it if you DID show us how this deflection works, concretely and exegetically. Even for just a few of the passages. Once I/we see how all these papist-sounding Fathers actually fit better into EastOxy, then we might be able to internalize the Orthodox eye and handle any future quotes ourselves.

But, as it stands, all I see on one side is a LOT of Fathers insisting on the necessary and original supremacy of Rome, while on the other side I see you, insisting they don’t *have to* mean what Florence and Trent and Vatican I and Vatican II say they mean. Obviously they don’t HAVE to! We’re postmoderns! What HAS to mean anything? What does “meaning” even mean!? ;'p

My point, again, is quite simple: If the Fathers don’t mean what I and Rome think they mean for the Church – what the heck DO they mean? If the Fathers’ papalism doesn’t actually fit with Catholicism – where in the world DOES it fit? You need not fight quote with quote. Just help me see how, despite apperances, so *much* patristic papal heritage (and I’m talking almost totally about Eastern Fathers) really DOES jibe with EO today. Lay it out for me. And remember who you’re dealing with here: K.I.S.S.

Having said all this, let’s get to the Fathers [that I'm about to quote]. Something I hope you’ll pay special attention to are the excerpts from the Byzantine Menaion which extol Peter [as well as a number of popes on different liturgical days] as *the* head of the apostolic college. How you as an Orthodox could really sing along with all this papalism is beyond me. I’m not saying you can’t or don’t. (For me, the cognitive dissonance would be debilitating, sort of like hearing my old Presby church, in my Protestant days, sing the Litany of Mary Queen of Heaven every few weeks or months.)

All I’m saying – as my overall Why-I’m-a-Catholic thesis – is that I simply see no other Church today that really CAN and DOES sing along (liturgically and doctrinally) with the whole range of patristic thought. Obviously, though, your ... efforts to skewer Rome on the horns of Maximus and Palamas’s theological crowns is a serious effort to show how Roman Catholicism IS NOT in harmony with the Tradition. Alas, that campaign is still very much unsettled and so far hardly the “one shot, one kill” you want it to be.

(PS. About Vigilius. Surely you are aware of the straightforward Catholic replies concerning him. I’ve always thought Honorious, being anathematized and all, was the best chance non-Catholics had of refuting infallibility on historical grounds. But Vigilius? It’s one thing to say a weak, confused pope under duress finally managed to conform to a council; it’s quite another to say he freely and infallibly defined as dogma something that eo ipso anathematized that council. Perhaps I’m missing something in your discussion of Vigilius. In any case, I direct you to discussions of Vigilius in the Catholic Encyclopedia [“Infallibility”], David Currie’s _Born Fundamentalist..._ and Patrick Madrid’s _Pope Fiction_ [including the works they cite].)

After saying all this, I cited a number of Fathers from my Eastern patristic florilegium about the princely authority of Pter and Rome. In the interest of space, rather than re-posting them here, I encourage to have a look at those citations in the comments of this discussion at Papal Ponty's (here and here).

The "open mike" of this post consists in inviting people (you! and you!) to answer the questions I posed to my Orthodox interlocutor. Hence, I reiterate my fundamental quandary as a non-Orthodox:

"If the Fathers don’t mean what I and Rome think they mean for the Church – what the heck DO they mean? If the Fathers’ papalism doesn’t actually fit with Catholicism – where in the world DOES it fit? ...

All I’m saying – as my overall Why-I’m-a-Catholic thesis – is that I simply see no other Church today that really CAN and DOES sing along (liturgically and doctrinally) with the whole range of patristic thought.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Baby got book!

0 comment(s)
NOTE: Do not listen to this spoof if the words "Sir Mix a Lot" don't mean anything to you.

SUB-NOTE (or SUPER-SUB-SUB-NOTE): Don't watch the spoof either if being reminded afresh of Sir Mix A Lot's scRUMPtious predeliction will upset you.

SUB-SUB-NOTE: Then again, if you don't know the original song, you might derive a different sort of amusement out of something that appears totally independently creative.

SUB-SUB-SUB-NOTE: Watch it or don't. I laughed a lot for at least the first half.

Good links, nach unten (a joke for my German-speaking readers)

0 comment(s)
+ All-in-One: Bible Versions and Translations

+ From East to West -- Introducing the West to the Treasures of Eastern Catholicism

+ Art Archive

+ PAUL VI PONTIFICAL INSTITUTE of Catechetical and Pastoral Studies (I'm considering going for the catechism certificate ... though having no Internet at home might make that harder to do!)


Oh goodie, my favorite! More bowel-quivering proof-texts!

0 comment(s)

Months I ago I compiled and posted a list of Eastern Christian quotes from the first eight centuries of the Church's life all having to do with the authority of the Bishop of Rome, as the successor of St. Peter. I encourage you to have a look at this list. When I review it, I am continually surprised to hear just how, well, *papal* so many Eastern Fathers sound so long ago.

Of course, not everyone found my florilegium as edifying, and certainly not as compelling as I did in favor of Catholicism. One reader, a Calvinist, objected the quotes were, basically, nuanced products of a radically different rhetorical milieu, and thus cannot be so easily appropriated by us (especially not us Romanists!) at "face value." Another reader, an Orthodox, objected oh so wittily they were just "spoof-texts," absent any real heuristic or apologetical power unless we first understand the different theological grids through which the East and the West process such "raw" quotes. Stangely enough, though, he then threw a spoof proof-text of his own at me, perhaps to show even raw pro-papal quotes must answer to their share of raw sub- or anti-papal quotes from the Tradition.

It just so happens this same quote, from the Sentence of the Synod of the Second Council of Constantinople II (ConsII; A.D. 553), was thorwn at me last night (yes, in the *same* infalliblity discussion at Papal Ponty's). Here is the fabled quote (with appropriate anti-papal emphases):

“For although the grace of the Holy Spirit abounded in each one of the Apostles, so that no one of them needed the counsel of another in the execution of his work, yet they were not willing to define on the question then raised touching the circumcision of the Gentiles, until being gathered together they had confirmed their own several sayings by the testimony of the divine Scriptures. And thus they arrived unanimously at this sentence...”

I think this quote deserves more attention, for two reasons. First, because I've had this same quote sent my way, I think other Catholics can be edified by seeing how to address such a quote in complicated discussions like this. Second, insofar as all Tradition is my "birthright" as a Catholic, I feel I ought to have a go at seeing how it all fits together, sort of like understanding how human physiology and anatomy helps us take greater ownership and pride in our bodies. Indeed, as Hans Urs von Balthasar says (c/o of Papal Ponty),

A Catholic can turn and twist as much as he likes; he cannot go back before Vatican I, which was solemnly confirmed by Vatican II (Lumen Gentium 22). As always, the only path after definition is that of an integration into a larger, all-embracing whole. And this whole has been available for a long time: it is the indefectibility of the believing Church, of which the indefectibility of the Petrine office is only a particular aspect, theologically undergirding and confirming the reality of the unifying Holy Spirit. (The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church (1986), pp. 125-126.)

It is my privilege as a Catholic to pursue this "larger, all-embracing whole."

[This quote came up again, from the same person, in July 2007, to which I replied here: Pope on a rope?.]

I hasten to affirm this quote is a great corrective to the illusion that Peter (and the Pope) stand alone like some infallible renegade. No, the Petrine chrism is first and foremost an *apostolic* chrism; there would be no Peter or pope without the grace given the Apostles in unified submission to the Lord.

Nevertheless, an important question is how Peter fit in among the apostles. Did the apostles need Peter’s OK to be apostolic? The simple answer is No. But the historical realities that militate against simply a simple “No” are twofold. First, James’s apostle-hood had its own parameters, just like Paul’s did, and so on for each of the Apostles. Each Apostle was an Apostle by virtue of the grace and authority given by Christ. For each apostle to be apostolic could go only so far – namely to his own jurisdiction. However, to be fully and functionally apostolic FOR THE WHOLE CHURCH required the unified efforts of the apostolic college. Peter letting James be James in his apostolic parameters is one thing; letting James be James in the parameters of the whole Church is quite something else.

Second, when we first see this unified action at work in the Gospels and the Acts, we see a remarkable thing: Peter’s undeniable prominence and leadership. The truth that balances and harmonizes with Peter’s primarily *apostolic* chrism is the apostolic college’s irrevocably and prominently *Petrine* chrism. This is not about Peter pulling rank on Paul or vice versa, but about *us* looking the phenomenology of the early Church square in the eye and following its contours faithfully.

It’s one thing to say each apostle needed Peter to be an apostle – that’s nonsense. It’s quite another, though, to acknowledge the ineluctable fact that the apostolic college as a matter of historical and revelatory fact DID, so to speak, fly in Petrine V-wing formation. My point is that we must deny the claim that the other apostles’ grace and authority derived FROM PETER, which is exactly what ConsII denies. What we as Christians, and what I as a Catholic, must not deny, however, is the pattern handed on to us in its concrete historical and “dramatic” fullness. The apostles did not have a Petrine “center of gravity” by intrinsic sacramental or absolute metaphysical necessity, and so we mustn’t think the Church today does either. The truth is simpler and less stunning: the apostolic college, and therefore the Church, has a Petrine center of gravity because *that is how* Christ, in the concrete Heilsgeschichte, as a matter of vital fact, guided his Church to be born and grow.

The sentence of ConsII after the “anti-papal” quote really just fleshes out the biblical basis for why the apostles took this path (ie., the ensuing quotes from Hebrew wisdom literature, etc.).

But also the Holy Fathers, who from time to time have met in the four holy councils, following the example of tile [sic] ancients, have by a common discussion, disposed of by a fixed decree the heresies and questions ... [so] that by common discussion when the matter in dispute was presented by each side, the light of truth expels the darkness of falsehood.

Nor is there any other way in which the truth can be made manifest when there are discussions concerning the faith, since each one needs the help of his neighbour, as we read in the Proverbs of Solomon: "A brother helping his brother shall be exalted like a walled city; and he shall be strong as a well-founded kingdom;" and again in Ecclesiastes he says: "Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour."

So also the Lord himself says: "Verily I say unto you that if two of you shall agree upon earth as touching anything they shall seek for, they shall have it from my Father which is in heaven. For wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

In this sense, ConsII is rather unassumingly explaining the material devices Christ implanted in the early Church to guide it and its apostles towards unity, humility, dialogue etc. Indeed, the immediate goal of the quoted passage is that of a defense by the ConsII Fathers for the calling of another council. Principle 1: “Councils are good because the apostles were brothers in counsel.” Another application of the passage is, of course, a wider moral meditation on Christian fraternity, ie., Principle 2: “Unified counsel, like at the councils, is good because its apostolic.”

In either case, I simply fail to see how the Fathers’ defense of councils as apostolic facts and their moral meditation on apostolic fraternity detract from the Petrine center of gravity that was ALSO found in the apostolic life. In synthesis, the Catholic Church now agrees with, and always has agreed with, the first two principles – but hastens to add, in conformity with the received-pattern, the paradosis, Principle 3: “Having a Petrine center of gravity in fraternal counsel is good, just like at the councils, because to do so is apostolic.”

When facing all these “raw” quotes, we must respect a crucial distinction between considering “could” in the life of the Church (as pure abstract possibility) and “can”, “does” and “is” (as divinely revealed possibilities) in the life of the Church. Peter *could* have functioned without the other apostles; but Tradition teaches us that God simply deigned that not to *be* the case. The apostles *could* have functioned without Peter; but Tradition teaches us they *did not* in fact do so. The Church *could* have continued without (episcopal) apostolic successors; but Tradition teaches us that God simply deigned that not to *be* the case. Hence, while the Church *could* this very moment live without the Pope as the successor of Peter in union with the bishops as successors of the apostles, Tradition, the living, present, right-now Tradition of the Church, mediated by her Magisterium, simply shows us that *is* not, *cannot* and therefore will not be the case.

The question becomes even more interesting when we consider a couple passages from the next Council, Constantinople III (A.D. 680-681). The first passage is from a letter of Pope St. Agatho to the Emperor Constantine the Great, Heraclius and Tiberius (I've added the appropriate pro-papal emphases ;p ):

And therefore I beseech you [the Emperor Constantine the Great, and to Heraclius and Tiberius – EBB] with a contrite heart and rivers of tears, with prostrated mind, deign to stretch forth your most clement right hand to the Apostolic doctrine which the co-worker of your pious labours, the blessed apostle Peter [Agatho –EBB], has delivered, that it be not hidden under a bushel, but that it be preached in the whole earth more shrilly than a bugle: because [of] the true confession [of Christ's identity and anture] Peter was pronounced blessed by the Lord of all things ... for he received from the Redeemer of all himself, by three commendations, the duty of feeding the spiritual sheep of the Church; under whose protecting shield, this Apostolic Church of his has never turned away from the path of truth in any direction of error, whose authority, as that of the Prince of all the Apostles, the whole Catholic Church, and the Ecumenical Synods have faithfully embraced, and followed in all things; and all the venerable Fathers have embraced its Apostolic doctrine, through which they as the most approved luminaries of the Church of Christ have shone; and the holy orthodox doctors have venerated and followed it, while the heretics have pursued it with false criminations and with derogatory hatred. This is the living tradition of the Apostles of Christ, which his Church holds everywhere.

For this is the rule of the true faith, which this spiritual mother of your most tranquil empire, the Apostolic Church of Christ, has both in prosperity and in adversity always held and defended with energy; which, it will be proved, by the grace of Almighty God, has never erred from the path of the apostolic tradition, nor has she been depraved by yielding to heretical innovations, but from the beginning she has received the Christian faith from her founders, the princes of the Apostles of Christ, and remains undefiled unto the end, according to the divine promise of the Lord and Saviour himself, which he uttered in the holy Gospels to the prince of his disciples: saying, "Peter, Peter, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that (thy) faith fail not. And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."

[I]t is the Lord and Saviour of all that promised that Peter's faith should not fail and exhorted him to strengthen his brethren, how it is known to all that the Apostolic pontiffs, the predecessors of my littleness, have always confidently done this very thing: of whom also our littleness, since I have received this ministry by divine designation, wishes to be the follower, although unequal to them and the least of all.

Therefore the Holy Church of God, the mother of your most Christian power, should be delivered and liberated with all your might (through the help of God) from the errors of such teachers, and the evangelical and apostolic uprightness of the orthodox faith, which has been established upon the firm rock of this Church of blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, which by his grace and guardianship remains free from all error.

Now have a look at an excerpt from the Council Fathers' letter in reply to Agatho (op. cit.):

Serious illnesses call for greater helps, as you know, most blessed [father]; and therefore Christ our true God gave a wise physician, namely your God-honoured sanctity, to drive away by force the contagion of heretical pestilence by the remedies of orthodoxy, and to give the strength of health to the members of the church. Therefore to thee, as to the bishop of the first see of the Universal Church, we leave what must be done, since you willingly take for your standing ground the firm rock of the faith, as we know from having read your true confession in the letter sent by your fatherly beatitude to the most pious emperor: and we acknowledge that this letter was divinely written (perscriptas) as by the Chief of the Apostles, and through it we have cast out the heretical sect of many errors which had recently sprung up. [1]

The significant thing is that this letter is totally wrapped up with Agatho and Con II’s anathematization of Honorius for affirming the Monothelites in his two letters. This suggests Agatho (and others) had a good sense of the difference between the Bishop of Rome’s princely infallibility *as a divine office* and a particular pope’s sins or heresies in that office under non-ex-cathedra conditions. As Steve O'Reilly says,

...Honorius wrote that "on account of the simplicity of man and to avoid controversies, we must, as I have already said, define neither one nor two operations in the mediator between God and man" (Scripta dilectissimi filii quoted by William Shaw Kerr in A Handbook on the Papacy 196; emphasis added).

These words make it clear Honorius did not address the nascent heresy as the "teacher of all Christians" defining what ought to be believed. On the contrary, the pope declines to "define" anything and merely follows Sergius’s suggestion in saying neither expression should be spoken of. ...

Honorius urged a rule of silence, not a rule of faith. His letters, which anathematized nothing, were intended for a few Eastern bishops and were unknown in the West until after his death. They were hardly the sort of documents with which a pope communicates his intent to bind the whole Church to a solemn dogmatic definition. ...

The truth is, although monothelites such as Pyrrhus, Patriarch of Constantinople, did cite Honorius after his death, the Pope had orthodox defenders who insisted upon his orthodoxy and rejected the attempts of heretics to misuse his words. Maximus the Confessor, who was martyred by the monothelites, wrote that heretics "lie against the Apostolic See itself in claiming Honorius to be one with their cause" (Ad Petrum illustrem, quoted in the online Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent). Pope John IV (640–642) defended Honorius, saying he meant only to deny "contrary wills of mind and flesh" (Apologia pro Honorio Papa, quoted by Joseph Costanzo, S.J., in The Historical Credibility of Hans Küng, 105). ...

Though Agatho asserted the orthodoxy of all his predecessors and the infallibility of the apostolic see, he left open the possibility that a pope is nonetheless liable to judgment should he "neglect to preach the truth" to the faithful. Agatho thereby provided the tacit basis for the condemnation of Honorius on these grounds: that by neglecting to preach the truth, Honorius left the Lord’s flock exposed to ravaging wolves....

When confirming the council, Pope Leo II (682–683) faulted Honorius because he "did not endeavor to preserve" the faith and for having "permitted" it to be assaulted, but not for having either invented, taught, or adhered to the heretical doctrine (Paul Bottalla, S.J., Pope Honorius Before the Tribunal of Reason and History, 111–112). Elsewhere, Leo blames "Honorius, who did not, as became the Apostolic authority, extinguish the flame of heretical teaching in its first beginning, but fostered it by his negligence" (Leonis II ad Episcopos Hispanie in the Catholic Encyclopedia, volume VII, 455; emphasis added). In sum, Honorius failed to teach.

Remember: Impeccability is not infallibility. Honorius was a heretical pope precisely because he failed to “live up to” the role of Peter by infallibly denouncing the heresy. Rather, because he remained diffident (in a non-extraordinarily infallible) way, he merited the Council's anathematization.

[1] To head my Orthodox critic off at the pass: Why such material in my hands is spoof-texting while a (singular) similar proof-text (against papal supremacy, of course) is a defense in his hands, I’ll never know. Apologetical transubstantiaton!

Why not let Rome roam?

0 comment(s)
In the same conversation over at Papal Ponty's about infalliblity, the same EO reader (a delightful dialogue partner, by the way) made the following statements about this question:

Someone asked me earlier why I care so much about this, why can’t the EO just let Rome be? If you had a brother who would only relate to you on terms of authority, and you hurt because love was hard, you would not give up trying to find ways to relate on more basic brotherly terms.

To which I replied:

I appreciate this explanation. I am aware of the fact that you as an Orthodox are ecumenical out of love. That’s awesome (me too, except that my runty love is always in need of growth and grace). My question is not about why EOs reach for Catholics on a moral, Christian level — to reach the lost and call back sinners — but why Rome as a disembodied See has any such slack or indulgence by the East.

My point is not why EOs care for Catholics as separated, confused brethren, but why the East can’t seem to let Rome the bishopric go. In the very act of denouncing and excommunicating Rome, I see a thousand years of Orthodox history as a big obsession with the one thing it can’t admit it HAS to retain. The very resilience of Rome as a need for the East to stay in union, even in extremely painful union, with – as opposed to simply moving past other lost sees – suggests a divine permanence undergirds Rome.

The Catholic Church acknowledges its NEED for the East as a living bearer of the Tradition, and therefore as a key resource in a unified, effective struggle for the Kingdom (see _Ut Unum Sint_ and _Lumen Orientalum_). But that in now way hampers the Catholic Church’s ability or self-awareness to pronounce and bind and loose and worship AUTHORITATIVELY as THE ONE (unus, not solus) Church.

By contrast, the East seems unable to admit its need for the riches of the West, much less unable to articulate its vision for the Petrine primacy since Rome went all nutty. Much more important, though, is the fact that the East also, by its own admission, seems unwilling or unable to proceed in a collectively unified, catholic, ecumenically infallible way while she is without Rome. I think the asymmetry – thankful admiration without incapacitation vs. contempt with fragmented authority – is hugely telling. Even in being pushed to the outside, Rome slides to the center. Even in being denounced as an accidental heresiarchy for the East, Rome remains a living part of the East. Why, in the mystery of providence, is that?

Until, perhaps on some dark day as a disillusioned Catholic, I can answer that question, satisfactorily against Rome, I have no desire to pit myself against such a mysteriously vital part of the Church.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Speaking of his Dane-ness...

0 comment(s)
Have a look at my dear puppy, Dane! He's grown a good deal (for a Chihuahua, that is), and his wimpiness has really matured into a delightful full-blown puppyishness.

Here's a taste:

I would post all the pics here, but I don't want to burden FCA's upload with yet more image bandwidth, not to mention I'm afraid the pics might shove my sidebar down to the bottom of the page [for, sigh, Explorer users], like they have before.

If I haven’t' said it before, let me say it now: almost the sole reason I have Dane is because HE MAKES ME HAPPY. No theory. No plan. Just pure transcendent affinity. Love at first sight, I kid you not. He helps me listen to my heart. His inexhaustible cuteness and affection realizes the love of God like few others things I know. He is, like all things, a sacramental of divinity. Cuteness is a shadow of divine glory, and even God's shadows are dazzling.

It's so hard to let go

0 comment(s)
God willing, I will be moving into a new apartment next weekend. I'm happy about getting to know a new neighborhood (especially one so slap full of little Taiwanese eateries!) and living alone will be a nice change. (Well, I guess Dane is technically a roommate... but I think I can handle him.)

A major consequence of the move will be that I have no Internet at home. Ideally, in terms of my spiritual life, this will remove root and branch the unquestionably largest timesuck in my already time-pressed life. Of course, this can't do much good for my blogging life, right? Well, ideally, maybe it will. The goal is not to stop blogging, but to stop having the CONSTANT ability and temptation to surf the Internet at any and every hour for any and every passing whim. Sleep and prayer simply have to get a leg up on the Internet. I hope to have only my bed and key devotional materials in my bedroom. The rest will be for the living room or my study. All hail Matthew 5!

29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Ideally, I will continue writing blog-worthy shtuff and just posting in now and then from a flash drive at Internet cafes or friends' houses.

Along the same lines, I'm excited about the minimalism of new apartment: a few pieces of furniture, not much wall ornamentation -- functional, clean, monastic -- and in fact, ready for having people over for book/faith discussions. That's a goal of mine for next year, to set up a Catholic book discussion (or two). In addition to reaching out to non-Christians in Taichung, I really want to equip the faithful as well. I'm thinking of doing Thomas Nash's _Worthy Is the Lamb_ in the fall and Thomas Howard's _Being Catholic_ in the spring. I may also like to go through Thomas Dubay's _The Evidential Power of Beauty_, albeit primarily more for a non-Christian group.

Another good thing on the horizon is the opportunity to do a retreat at a Jesuit house in July. I'm really nervous about going through the Ignatian _Exercises_, quite frankly because, as the Exercises are aimed towards definitive vocational decisions, I'm sacred what God will tell me. Exercises or no, privately led or group-shared retreat, either way I'm STOKED about taking a vow of silence for at least a week. I am also considering working through Dietrich von Hildebrand’s magnum opus, _Transformation in Christ_, over the course of the (hopefully) two-week(-plus) retreat. Holiness is my one desire. God, how far I fall! But, O Lord, how low you steep to draw me up!

I should receive the sacrament of Confirmation by July, so I am eager to see how the Holy Spirit blooms in me on this (hypothetical) retreat AND at (the still technically hypothetical) World Youth Day. I am champing at the bit to DIVE into being Catholic. But it’s funny. I spent so much time an energy *becoming* Catholic, only to discover being Catholic largely means *continuing* becoming Catholic. One is, perhaps by definition, never catholic enough. To be Catholic is to admit one must still become Catholic.

The power of catholicity (kata holos = Gk., according to the whole)[1] is that it accomplishes two paradoxical but vital works in humans. On the one hand, the catholic (which is to say Catholic) truth draws us, as fragmented people, *in* to harmony with its total sacramental integrity, its intrinsic spiritual and moral completeness. On the other hand, simultaneously, catholicity draws us *out* into its pneumatically empowered unity with all peoples, places and times. Catholicity ties us together and, paradoxically, loosens us up.[2] The Catholic truth makes us whole – catholic – in the depths of our soul, while also making us full – catholic – in the growth of our consciences and experiences.

[1] Gus Portokalos: Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek.

[2] A helpful image might (?!) be that of a football spiral. The tighter the internal cohesion (and lacing) of the ball, the farther and better it travels to its goal. Another good image might be that of a bow and arrow, the “extrinsic”, progressive accuracy and range of which is directly related to its own “introverted”, regressive tension.

Good news keeps getting gooder

0 comment(s)
I learned today from the German embassy in Taipei that, as a U.S. citizen, I don't need a visa to travel (up to three months) in Europe. Woot! A bucket of red tape vanished in one snip! (And I got to speak german with two Taiwanese ladies. How cool!)

Monday, June 6, 2005

Good discussion keeps getting gooder

0 comment(s)

The discussion over at Papal Ponty's about papal infallibility is holding up nicely. Some of the recent highlights include:

The same Orthodox reader said:

I don’t think the limitations of plenitudo potestatis can be explained by defining ‘ex cathedra’ narrowly, and I can’t help but see the infallible/indefectible and ordinary/extraordinary magisterium distinctions you make as just that. What are we to make, after all, of boundless claims like those in Gregory VII’s Dictatus papae in which he declared [many things about the sovereignty of the Pope in all kinds of sociopolitical and canonical areas]...

To which Michael Liccione said:

The questions you’ve chosen to address are what it means to say that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, and what role the general notion of papal jurisdiction plays in that. You answer the first by citing martyrdom ("witnessing”) in general, in life as well as in death, and you answer the second by presenting, as an implicit counterexample to Catholic doctrine, a millennium-old synodal document in which a pope mixed his claims to political jurisdiction with by-then traditional claims to ecclesial jurisdiction. Your whole approach amounts to kicking up dust.

Here’s why. First, nobody denies that martyrdom of life and in death is an important sign that Christianity is true, and thus that martyrdom helps prevent the gates of hell from prevailing against the Church. That is not the question. What is not only questionable, but plainly false, is the claim that martyrdom somehow suffices to enable us to identify what does and does not belong to the deposit of faith. Hence the pertinent questions here are whether the dogma of papal infallibility is true and thus helps us make the needed identifications [sic]. ... All you do, however, is broaden the subject to that of papal jurisdiction generally and then, presumably to question the Catholic doctrine thereon, trot out a millennium-old synodal document in which a powerful, reforming pope mixes claims to ecclesiastical jurisdiction with claims to political jurisdiction. Now since the role of the papacy in secular politics is not a matter pertaining to the deposit of faith, no amount of error by popes on that topic—to the extent there has been error—is relevant to the issues of this thread.

The Orthodox reader replied:

What strikes me is that we need an ecclesiastical equivalent of lawyers to explain this dogma. Just look at this thread; we’ve already got disagreement from smart RC folks about the scope of infallibility. If you guys still have questions about it and it’s such a critical dogma, what should less-informed persons like me make of it? How can you expect anyone to understand it’s [sic] scope? And what practical value can it possibly have for the life in the church?

If you can provide a definition of Papal infallibility that comports fully with church dogma and those participating here can agree, I’ll gladly stipulate to that definition for discussion. Was it always with the church? If it developed over time, what was the first infallible teaching and which Pope spoke it? If there is no clear definition to be found, then you must let me consider every dogmatic Papal declaration describing the nature of authority vested in the “Petrine office” as providing legitimate evidence of the RC position regarding infallible teaching from that office.

To which Michael L. replied:

Once again, Michael, you’re introducing a false dichotomy. Just as there is no inherent opposition between authority as witness and authority as magisterium—rather, the latter enlightens the former and the former vivifies the latter, thus rendering them mutually dependent—so too there is interdependency, not opposition, between the salvific and legal aspects of the Church. That there must be legal aspects to the Church is clear just from how bishops, synods, and councils must work to resolve disputes, promulgate disciplinary rules, and establish guidelines for handling hard cases. Such legality helps to protect and sustain believers’ common life as such, especially sacramental life; that in turn helps equip us to bring Christ into the world. Life-sustaining law only becomes stultifying legalism when people use “the rules” to try to ascertain how little of the truth they can get away with believing or doing—or how much they can get away with violating.

...I’ve already provided the relevant definition [sic]: that of Vatican I, which was reaffirmed by Vatican II. The truth it defines, as distinct from the words used in the definition, always belonged to the deposit of faith entrusted to the Church AND developed over time in the Church. ...

The definition promulgated by Vatican I was crafted largely to exclude much that certain ultramontanists of past and present wanted, incontinently, to include. That included, among other things, claims by certain popes to a political authority that they sometimes enjoyed de facto but which never pertained to the deposit of faith. That popes sometimes erred in mixing their political positions with the legitimate exercise of their ecclesial jurisdiction is not a counterexample to Vatican I’s definition; indeed your use of Dominicae papae isn’t even relevant to that definition. If you wish to discuss the broader notion of papal jurisdiction, I am open to doing so. But that is a far more elastic notion, historically as well as conceptually, than that of papal infallibility.

At this point, another Catholic reader added this:

[C]ouncils are not considered authoritative or infallible until the Pope ratifies their canons and decrees. There are examples of councils having only some of their decrees ratified by the Pope; the remaining, unratified ones are not considered to have ever been issued. ...

A very interesting and revealing discussion of the Council of Chalcedon occurs in Cardinal Newman’s “Development of Christian Doctrine” in which a hesitating, vacillating body of bishops is finally told what to define by St. Leo, not the other way around: “The Council, after its termination, addressed a letter to St. Leo; in it the Fathers acknowledge him as ‘constituted interpreter of the voice of Blessed Peter,’ [Note 81] (with an allusion to St. Peter’s Confession in Matthew xvi.,) and speak of him as ‘the very one commissioned with the guardianship of the Vine by the Saviour.’ (Chapter 6).

Finally, I added my own two cents', much in line with what I later discovered to be Michael L.'s views:

Re. 15: “What are we to make, after all, of boundless claims like those in Gregory VII’s Dictatus papae…”

Sorry to be so underwhelmingly blunt, but, insofar as that document is not the dogmatic promulgation of papal infallibility (a la Vatican I), I don’t make much of it and don’t have to. As tempting as it might be for you to try cornering me with such quotes, I, as a Catholic, am not bound to Dictatus papae et al. in any way like I am to Pastor Aeternus (and Lumen Gentium, etc.). Vatican I’s PA [in its drafting – EBB] no doubt had all such high medieval Gregorian papalism before it, and nonetheless molded the language according to the Catholic truth, on the one hand avoiding a plunge into pure ultramontanism and on the other hand avoiding a slide into retro-papalism (i.e., as if centuries of early-to-high medieval [Western and Byzantine] fragmentation had not clearly underscored the need for a powerful centralized organ of truth).

Further, a number of the clauses in DP are canonical provisions that allowed the papacy to function in a particular (ie., prior) milieu. They were, like all canons, ancillary clauses meant to facilitate a divine truth. While the divine reality of the papacy is not negotiable for the Church, the particular canons attached to it (a la DP) are indeed much more flexible. As Michael L. alluded to, this is very much the intent of JP II’s Ut Unum Sint: to keep the divine reality of a shepherd for the shepherds while (ecumenically) sacrificing contingent canonical measures and structures. At any rate, I’d be surprised if you, as a knowledgeable Orthodox, weren’t familiar with the incredible complexity (in the East just as much as the West) of navigating “outdated” canons in order to preserve truths of the faith today. Meyendorff and Florovsky discuss this messy issue in a number of places.

My point is, dogmatically speaking, I have PA to assent to, and, while you do not, you still have the same “canonical conundrum” (in other issues) that you seem to pit against clear Catholic dogma.

Please permit me to paste in a pertinent papal quote Papal Ponty prominently posted:

A Catholic can turn and twist as much as he likes; he cannot go back before Vatican I, which was solemnly confirmed by Vatican II (Lumen Gentium 22). As always, the only path after definition is that of an integration into a larger, all-embracing whole. And this whole has been available for a long time: it is the indefectibility of the believing Church, of which the indefectibility of the Petrine office is only a particular aspect, theologically undergirding and confirming the reality of the unifying Holy Spirit. ... [I]t is also futile frantically to avoid the biblical word “authority” (exousia), substituting “service” for it, because all biblical authority exists solely for service. Indeed, the People of God benefit from a service only when “authority” is effectively present: for authentic proclamation, for government, for administering the sacraments. To drive a wedge between authority and service is also dishonest.

... Real authority—the authority of the whole hierarchy, i.e., the bishops with the pope in their midst—is needed to show not only a practical but also an objectively guaranteed right way through the confusion of opinions and hypotheses. Niether [sic] biblical texts nor the sixteenth-century creeds (nor those of later times) can substitute for this authority.

(Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church (1986), pp. 125-126.)

At this point, I return to my three most dominant concerns about the papacy and the East.

First, if the See of Rome really has cut itself off from the Church, why does the East waste so much attention on it? Granted, the need stifle papist heresy would compel the Eastern Churches to toe the line – but why does one cacodox (great Orthodox polemical word!) bishopric still have so much staying power against the full array of the East? I mean, if the Pope really is the megalomaniacal old uncle who’s cut himself off from the family, and should just be left to himself – a claim I’ve heard more than once on various theological boards and blogs – then why DON’T the Eastern Churches just let Rome mutter itself away in monomaniacal Alzheimer’s?

Given I can never “solve” the myriad very complex historical and theological issues at play, how can I dare cut myself off from that See that even the East refuses to let go? I am a Catholic not because I “see” how Rome is “just right” on everything, much less so because I “just know” everyone else is “just wrong” on everything, but rather, quite simply, because being a Catholic is the only way I know, by the light of humble faith, of affirming all the Church has always held without also pitting myself against something she may or may not hold. I cannot exist in the crevasse of polemics; I must have a viable home to grow in prayer and holiness. And Catholicism is the only habitat that is, well, catholic enough to preserve the fullness of unanimously accepted (er, as if...) Christian truth *as well as* obedient enough to “err on the side of excess” by preserving even the most controversial facets of the depositum fidei.

Second, the fact that the East is not willing (or functionally able) to “let Rome roam” is quite telling. What other see in the history of the Church, once it’s stubbornly and clearly pitted itself against the Faith (as the East says Rome has) has ever been given a room to come back to? Obviously the door of reconciliation is always open for heretics, but their heresy ipso facto nullifies their episcopal authority and ecclesial permanence. A heretical is no longer a see. Hence, if Rome really is so far gone, why does the East still insist it is, even in a very attenuated “supremacy of love,” an integral part of the Church? And, insofar as the Petrine ministry is recognized by numerous Orthodox as a given for the Church, why hasn’t this ministry passed on to someone else? Why doesn’t Constantinople use the language Rome always did and still does? Where is Orthodoxy’s Petrine office in the apostolic college?

Third, in conjunction with the second concern, where and what is Orthodoxy’s magisterium? Far from trying to “impose” “Latin” concepts on the Eastern tradition, I am genuinely asking for guidance about the increasingly pressing question of “who speaks for God” in the East?

Now, not one of these concerns is an argument per se – but together they form key phenomenological and conceptual contours of the Catholic-Orthodox debate that guide the evidence, like water over carved rocks (or indeed, like living waters over a hewn Rock), in favor of Rome.

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Shazzam! Iiiiiiit's... papal infallibility!

0 comment(s)
The Pontificator, new brother in the catholica, whom I now call Papal Ponty, has posted a couple quotes from Fr. Stanley Jaki's Keys of the Kingdom (link) and And on This Rock (link), two superb reflections on the papacy from a superb Benedictine physicist-theologian.

In _Keys_ Fr. Jaki says,

The real difference between Protestants and Catholics concerns their judgment as to what is the most reliable means of securing and holding fast to that truly ineffable tie with the divine. Their difference is real in spite of the fact that both have to satisfy the same human nature which is a composite of the tangible and the intangible. At the risk of oversimplifying a problem on which long volumes could be written, the Protestant answer implies an effort to go from the intangible to the tangible; whereas the Catholic answer implies the opposite course.

A blank reader was unimpressed.

Why? Very little sense in Jaki of the Reformation’s happy knowledge that faith comes by hearing and that there can be an enjoyable inhabitation of a faith which is linquistically [sic] mediated. Some RC theologians understand this better than others: von Balthasar does, Rahner much less so.

In reply I said,

Would the rejection of a consecrated chain/order of bishops be a move towards or away from tangibility? Would the rejection of clerically mediated confession/absolution be a move towards or away from tangibility? And iconoclasm? Would all or any such moves be a move towards or away the concretization of the Incarnation? I don’t mean to simplify the issues here, but I fail to be impressed by a failure to be impressed by what seem like perfectly straightforward observations by Fr. Jaki. Accepting the fundamental concreteness of the spoken Word is one thing; accepting the equally concrete sacramental effects of that Word is quite another.

Then, in _This Rock_, Fr. Jaki says,

Papal infallibility is not a magic power whereby our ordinary human condition is raised to such an extraordinary level that everything becomes absolutely clear, that is, free of any grey area. Revelation leaves essentially intact the human condition which, to paraphrase Paul’s words, is to see through a glass darkly. In certain kinds of politics, philosophy, and science which frown upon revelation, the accent all too readily shifts from imperfect seeing to a scepticism void of any vision. This fateful process is precisely what is prevented through a reliance on the light of Revelation. That light secures confidence in trusting our perception of the supernatural as well as of the natural. To keep that light distinct from the mirage of illusions, however sophisticated and fashionable, is the function of an authoritative Magisterium in which the papacy has an irreducible role, both ordinary and extraordinary. Those mindful of the human condition will not find it surprising that even with respect to the pope’s extraordinary Magisterium, one shall never have the absolute clarity of mathematical logic, which is a superb tautology anyway.

An Orthodox reader chimed in oh so cleverly,

Papal infallibility isn’t magic, it is fiction.

I replied:

“Ecclesial infallibility isn’t magic, it is fiction.” Fine line, difference, qualifier?

[quoting Fr. Jaki:] “To keep that light distinct from the mirage of illusions, however sophisticated and fashionable, is the function of an authoritative magisterium in which the papacy has an irreducible role, both ordinary and extraordinary.”

Forget the pope’s place in it, what is Orthodoxy’s Magisterium?

After more comments by this Orthodox reader, as well as a diffident assessment (by an Orthodox priest) of an overly mechanistic view of the Church's indefectibility, I said:

It seems very easy for Orthodox to claim each individual Christian bears within himself the fullness of the faith handed on to him (a point Chris Jones makes again and again), but what seems tougher, for Orthodox and Protestants, is that this same kind of “plenary orthodoxy” resides in the Pope. This is not an argument, I admit, but I am struck by juxtaposition between saying boldly, on the one hand, even the “lowliest” saint bears the faith indefectibly and fully but on the other hand denying a similar orthodoxy can reside in the uncontested head (coryphaeus) of the Apostolic College. So I ask again: What is Orthodoxy’s Magisterium? It’s one thing to say the faithful can and do preserve the faith — a claim I doubt any serious Catholic would deny — it’s quite another to say the faithful, singly or collectively, have it within themselves to define and dogmatize dogmas as truths of the depositum fidei.

And as far as the desire to define goes, I think it’s highly ironic the faithful have always outstripped and in a sense pulled along the episcopacy towards those much waylaid dogmas, the Immaculate Conception and Purgatory. The balance for me as a Catholic is that the faithful, as the living vessels of the Spirit, do, as a whole keep in step with Him in the sensus fidelium, while the episcopacy, as the pastors established by God over the faithful, then define and dogmatize the work of the Holy Sprit in order for the faithful to continue walking. The dilemma you seem to be in (esp. regarding the IC[1] and Purg, but just as much so generally) is this: the faithful have consistently held and developed these dogmas, but as soon as they become “papal property”, they somehow seem imposed by some abstract, aloof “office.” If you believe in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin and in her total freedom from sin and in the final cleansing of the faithful before Heaven, why deny they are dogmas of the Faith? In their theology and piety, Protestants don’t “play with” dogmas they reject; I hope you wouldn’t either. ...

[The Orthodox reader] said: “The fiction is that the gates of hell have prevailed if the one officer falls though other saints stand true. In this case the apostolic witness remains without your selected officer.”

Something strikes me as a bit off in this, as if indefectibility or impeccability is being confused with infallibility.

The claim is not that the Church will have failed if the pope teaches or lives error, but that God will have failed the Church if the Pope teaches AS DOGMA what is in fact error. The claim is also not that the Pope always teaches infallibly, but only that when he does teach infallibly, he does indefectibly. Papal ordinary magisterium means the pope teaches truth infallibly along with the Church; his extraordinary magisterium means the Church believes infallibly what the Pope dogmatizes. In the former case, the Pope is infectible *in union with* the infallible sensus fidelium. In the latter case, the Church is indefectible *in union with* the infallible Petrine authority to bind and loosen, open and shut.

I don’t have the time at the moment to explore this further, but I think it is a crucial distinction, which may help ... this discussion. ...

I’m [also] curious if you [Orthodox priest] think the episcopal hierarchy is too much of a rigid mechanism, and could be kept or jettisoned, since God will preserve his Church either way. Since I’m sure you agree the episcopacy (as the living pastoral authority of Tradition, in union with the living (lay) bearers of the Faith) is indeed essential to the structure and indefectibility of the Church, I would like to better understand how Peter, as head of the Apostles, fits into that essential mechanism. If Peter is clearly a irreducible part of the episcopacy and if the episcopacy is an irreducible part of the Church, then I fail to see how Peter, as the head of the infallible voice of God (episcopacy), is not also an essential “mechanism” for the Church.

The same goes for the “mechanism” of priestly absolution, the mechanism of the epiclesis in the Eucharist, the mechanisms of connubial consummation, the mechanism of the anointing with oil, the mechanism of icons, the mechanism of the spoken Gospel, etc. By my lights, it’s quite parsimonious (and Khomiakovian) to deny the role of some less preferred ecclesial mechanisms (e.g, the Papacy) in favor of assurances about messy providence and our more preferred mechanisms of faith. The very word “mechanism” is loaded; let’s just call the Papacy another of the Church’s many “sacramental endowments”. While it is far from being “mechanistic” (as Fr. Jaki’s quote expressly states), Catholicism (and Cathodoxy) is nothing if not sacramental. Far from squinting critically at the mechanisms of office and official chrisms, I recall it was the Apostles that insisted the office of Judas be filled, as if a mechanical breakdown needed fixing.

[1]Forget for a moment the difference between the East’s “necrotic” definition of ancestral sin and the West’s more “juridical” understanding: on the terms of the dogma itself, do you or do you not agree our Blessed Mother the Theotokos was preserved from all sin? The West can and does affirm *with the East* that she was not spared from the pain of sin-as-death-and-suffering – hence the Assumption! – yet, the East seems unable or unwilling to accept the perfectly plain truth *of our common Tradition* that our Lady was singularly graced by God to be a spotless vessel for the Lord. Are you as an Orthodox really willing to deny this?

If the Catholic Church dogmatically stated original sin always and only means the moral guilt on account of our lack of divine light received from Adam, then, yes, we would be irreconcilably at loggerheads. But insofar as the dogma of the IC was dogmatizing the particularly Western dimensions of the truth about our Lady (and thus about our Lord’s birth) *without anathematizing* any broader Eastern dimensions of that truth, then I see no good reason for you to reject the dogma.

The IC is for me another fine example of the immensely deep catholicity of the Catholic Church. As a Catholic, I can and do embrace both realities (East and West, mortal sorrow and moral sinlessness), while you as an Orthodox seem to me pinned down to only a share of the truth.

Why be a missionary?

0 comment(s)
I realized last week I am in Taiwan because I can use certain gifts from God here that I can use nowhere else. God has equipped me my whole life with certain aptitudes, ways of speaking, experiences and unspeakable spiritual blessings that only germinate here, now, in Taiwan. The same is true, I'm sure, for countless other gifts which find there habitat to flourish only in the right missionary setting. In the USA, I had the same gifts, and I shared them with people as best as I could; but they simply never took root in people there as God intended them to take root in people here. Further, as a missionary, I was not called here simply to share my gifts with "people," but to share particular gifts with particular people. As I told one Taiwanese person last week, "YOU are why I am here."

We must always be sensitive to the dual nature of vocation. It is part, a serious call to help the least of these, to offer your life for people in need of the light of Christ. This is the, let us say, humanitarian dimension of missions: to help someone else find God.[1] The less discussed dimension of missions is its, let us say, divinizing power (a la theosis). By offering yourself to another, you quite literally open yourself up to God transforming you in his image. As St. Paul told the Christians in Colossus (chapter 3):

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. ... 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Missions is the call to be sent as Christ was sent and therefore to suffer as he suffered. As St. John tells us (chapter 20):

19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

Receiving the Spirit of the crucified Messiah means following the Spirit in Jesus’ sufferings, not only to all peoples but also to all the heights of holiness. As St. Paul says in Romans 8:

12Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.[g] And by him we cry, "Abba,[h] Father." 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

My point? My actio for this fides et cogitatio? Answer the call to missions. Be sent. Get sent. Take the risk. Open yourself up. Do a summer mission. Do a holiday mission. Support a missionary. Not only are there very real persons in need of the gifts God has given you and you alone, but also, by getting sent, you will discover seeds in yourself that I can all but guarantee you will never blossom where and how you are now.

Pray also for me that I may continue to tend the gifts God gave me for this very soil. The more seeds I discern blossoming in me here the more they tend to intertwine as one massive knot of thankfulness.

I leave you with chapter 15 of St. John's Gospel.

1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.

[1] (I take it as obvious that the primary goal of missions is, in a very real sense, to help God find all people, which is in turn to bring the greatest glory to God.)