How the integrity and the identity of the Church is maintained throughout history
In His earthly ministry Jesus formed a special group of twelve disciples with the purpose of sharing in His ministry. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the apostles assumed the responsibility for the community. Now, if the Church was to continue the work of Christ until His return in glory, then this mission, that Christ had given to His apostles would have to continue since such ministry was essential for the very integrity and identity of the life of the Church. The early Church constantly emphasised the importance of the Church’s continuity with its apostolic origins. And so elders or leaders were appointed for the task of continuing and teaching the apostolic faith. In this paper we will analyse briefly this means employed by the early Church to assure the correct promulgation of the apostolic faith and its protection from any error.
Apostles and Bishops
It was the apostles who received the faith from Christ and handed it over to the bishops. And it was in this way that the integrity and identity of the Church could be maintained throughout history. Now, since it was claimed that the faith is handed down integrally through the bishop, scholars have sought to compare and contrast the apostolate to the episcopate. In their quest to analyse and codify the relationship between Apostles and bishops, theologians (both Western and Eastern expressed certain critical distinctions between the latter and the former. Firstly, it was pointed out that the apostles had no geographical limits (ie their ministry extended to all the known world), whereas the bishops are appointed for a local church with binding canons. Secondly, it was posited that the apostles experienced Christ in an immediate way while the bishops are only indirectly related to Him. Lastly, these theologians believed that whereas the apostles were personally infallible, they bishops are not. However, careful study reveals that, with the exception of the second, these distinctions are erroneous.
Even though the bishop are ‘restricted’ in a local Church one must not forget the collegial character of the world-wide episcopate, the concors numerositas (‘harmonious multiplicity’) of bishops meeting in council and reaching together a ‘common mind’ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. For St Cyprian the primary role of the individual bishop is to act as a link between the local Church and the Church Universal. Collectively the bishops speak with an authority which they did not possess individually.
Together the members of the episcopate become something more than they are as scattered individuals, and this ‘something more’ is the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit is in their midst. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them”.
St Cyprian epigrammatically writes:
“The episcopate is a single whole, in which [each bishop] enjoys full possession”.
This above quote implies that each individual bishop shares the plenitude of the episcopal grace and not a part of it, however not in solitude but in communion with all other bishops. In other words, each bishop shares in the one episcopate, not as having only a small fraction of the whole but as having an expression of the whole. This solidarity of the episcopate is manifested through the holding of a council and reaching a ‘common mind’ whereby the integrity of the identity of the Church is preserved.
Apostolic Faith and Apostolic Succession
As it was noted earlier, the early Church believed that the apostolic doctrine was faithfully preserved in the churches through the succession of bishops. St Irenaeus claimed that the bishop traces his descent in unbroken succession through his predecessors in the same see, back to the apostles and so to Jesus Christ. Secondly, by virtue of this unbroken succession he is endowed with a special charisma whereby he acts as the authoritative teacher of the apostolic faith in his local church – as the guarantor and witness to the faith held by all. For St Irenaeus, there is a relationship between the external historical laying on of hands and the inner succession in the content of faith. Outward continuity in apostolic succession serves as the sign of inward continuity in apostolic faith. The relationship between the continuity of apostolic faith and external continuity by the laying in of hands is summed up by Androutsos:
“Both of these are internally related and presuppose one another, and as the apostolic teaching is the basis of apostolic succession, so also the apostolic succession constitutes the external sign that a certain Church is genuine and in agreement with the ancient Church both in teaching and in administration.”
At this point the following questions arise as to whether the concept of apostolic succession is exhausted in the correct apostolic teaching alone. Secondly, whether a deviation from the apostolic teaching deprives a canonically ordained person of the gift of the Spirit entirely? In answer to the former question Archbishop Stylianos correctly points out that apostolic teaching constitutes the basis of apostolic succession. However, the notion of apostolic succession embraces both the correct confession of faith and the mystical gift of the Holy Spirit, by the laying on of hands which acts as a seal for that Grace. This is crucial since it clearly distinguishes between the sacramental and royal Priesthood. The second problematic posed points to the indelible character (character indelibilis) of the Sacrament of Ordination.
To quote Archbishop Stylianos once again:
“through the falling away from the apostolic teaching the gift of the Priesthood is obscured in the ordained person and becomes inactive; it is not lost for ever however, because it is indispensable for the historical continuity of the Church on earth.”
Consequently, there are two inter-related elements which are implied in the concept of apostolic succession; the apostolic teaching and phronema, and the gift of the Holy Spirit bestowed by the laying on of the hands. Indeed the notion of apostolic succession extends to the remaining clerical orders (the presbyters and deacons) and all the baptised faithful. On the day of Pentecost the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out on all the believers present and not just the twelve apostles.
All the faithful share to a certain degree to the three-fold ministry of Christ as King, Prophet and Priest. To use a mathematical analogy: apostolic succession is a vertical line in that the ordained Priesthood, especially the bishop is the link between the apostles and the local church. Apostolic succession is also a horizontal line in that all the faithful participate in the three fold ministry of Christ according to the variety of gifts of the Holy Spirit. When not seen in this light, apostolic succession is reduced to a personal gift that any two or three bishops can bestow on another person and not as a ministry in the Church. It is important to remember that the consecration of a bishop is followed by the Divine Liturgy which is offered by the newly ordained bishop. This seemingly ‘minor liturgical’ detail testifies to the fact that the consecration finds its fulfilment, when for the first time that bishop – the one who presides in the Eucharistic assembly – offers to God the eucharist of the whole church. From the above we can see that it is through the notion of apostolic succession that the apostolic faith is transmitted from generation to generation so that the faithful can feel assured that the faith received is whole and identical with the faith once handed down by Christ Himself.
Dr Philip Kariatlis
Academic Director and Senior Lecturer in Theology,
St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College
1. cf. P. Trembelas, Dogmatics, vol. 2, p.390
2.This problem was raised in the pioneering study of Archbishop Stylianos, The Infallibility of the Church, pp. 61ff.
3. A term coined by St Cyprian of Carthage, (Letter LV. 24).
4. A precedent for such synods can indeed be found in the New Testament, in the Council at Jerusalem described in Acts 15. Gathered together the apostles declare “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us”. (Acts 15.28).
5. Matthew 18:20.
6. On the Unity of the Catholic Church, 5. Taken from bishop Kallistos Ware, “Patterns of Episcopy in the Early Church and Today; an Orthodox view in Bishops but what Kind?”, p.17
7. Cf. Androutsos, Dogmatics, p.281.
8. Cf. Archbishop Stylianos Charkianakis, opt. cit., p. 64
13. cf. Acts 2
14. Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition, 1,4.
Orthodoxy along the Centuries
Beyond its current problems, mostly of internal nature, and its misrepresentation by the outsiders, Orthodoxy is the inheritor and the living continuation of the Church established by our Lord Jesus Christ through the indwelling of his Holy Spirit in the first Christian community in Jerusalem.
Built upon the kerygma, or proclamation, of the apostolic faith and the participatory aspect of its liturgical life, the Orthodox Church is definitively the catholic (καθολική) manifestation of the original Church established by Christ, a truthful witness to the Spirit’s deifying presence. By catholicity we mean the fullness of the concrete ecclesial reality as manifested – in the Holy Spirit – through each local Church under a bishop and in the communion of the local Churches, whose canonical expression is the synod of bishops under their primate and ultimately under Christ.
Generation after generation, starting with the first century up until now Orthodoxy has embraced various cultures and peoples, manifesting diachronically its catholicity through a large variety of cultural expressions. This gives account as to how the one Orthodox Church, defined by one faith and life, subsists actually as a communion, or commonwealth, of local and regional Churches, distinct from the point of view of their cultural features. Characterised by this complex architecture of one and many, unity and plurality, the Orthodox Church experiences – ideally and paradoxically – a unity which does not annulate the richness of plurality and a plurality which does not destroy the blessed gift of unity.
As such, and despite the internal disagreements or incongruities which darken at times its horizon, Orthodoxy is called to reflect in a superior way – as true structured pneumatocracy (Archbishop Stylianos) – the divine paradigm of unity (one God) in plurality (three hypostases). Along with the common faith and life shared by all Orthodox Churches, the canonical and symbolic expression of Orthodoxy’s unity remains throughout history – including in our increasingly globalised world – the primacy of the Ecumenical Throne, i.e. the prerogatives of the Patriarch of Constantinople as primus inter pares (the first among the equals) in the gathering of Orthodox bishops. To the realisation of this model has contributed a long process of theological and canonical refinements.
During their first centuries of historical existence, the emerging Churches throughout the Greek-Roman world – and beyond its boundaries – have preserved their communion in spite of the geographical distances separating them and the oppression exerted by both the pagan imperial authorities and ignorant masses. This unity has been consistently expressed through the truthful and communal witness to the apostolic kerygma and the celebration of the liturgy, also by the spiritual ethos characterising Christians no matter their dwelling place and the language in which they announced the compassion of God to all people.
Last but not least, the Christian unity has been also realised at the level of the complex episcopal ministry. By their communion with both their local dioceses and each other, the bishops manifested the inner cohesion of Christendom as a new reality under Christ Jesus, the Head of the Church and supreme pontiff (bridge-maker) between God and humanity. Therefore, being centred in Christ and oriented both vertically and eschatologically, the heroically thriving Churches of the first centuries and their unbreakable communion needed no spatial point of reference. The spirit of this paradigm has been faithfully preserved by the coming generations, even if from the ganisational point of view the Church has experienced a process of continuous reformation, given the various historical circumstances.
In the early centuries, the most impressive sign of Christian presence in the world, however, was undoubtedly the uncompromising proclamation of faith in the form of martyrdom. Besides being less theologically elaborated, the credal statements of the martyrs concerning the Holy Trinity, Christ as Son of God and Saviour, together with the sacramentally regenerated life in the Church, constituted unambiguous confessions of the apostolic faith none the less. Also, they represented truthful expressions of the inner life of the Church as communion and the nobility of the Christian way of living. In fact, these statements constituted one of the most efficient ways of communicating the Gospel of Christ to the world, not by relying on the apodictic tools of human logic but by the power of conviction springing from the personal example.
With the era inaugurated by Constantine the Great, the Church was no longer persecuted by the Roman authorities yet it had to face numerous internal and external challenges. Mainly, along with the effort to safeguard the inner unity of Christianity, menaced by the powers of division represented by the heretical movements, the Church had to elaborate a political platform upon which to build its complex relations with the Empire.
Throughout the history of the Christian Roman Empire, between the foundation (in 330) and the fall (in 1453) of Constantinople, there was a constant – although not always evident – struggle between the political power and the Church. With numerous occasions, the Empire attempted to impose to the Church its own policies, at times causing serious damage with painful and lasting consequences. It is of notoriety that the most distinguished Christian theologians of the period (such as St Athanasios the Great, St Basil the Great, St Maximos the Confessor, St John Damascene, St Theodore the Studite and innumerable others), suffered persecutions from the Empire for defending Orthodoxy against the illegitimate ideological pressures exerted from time to time by the civil authorities. Perhaps the most explicit and exemplary form of resistance against the secular policies in the Byzantine era remains that of monasticism, at least up until the end of the second iconoclast crisis, in 843, and the interlude occasioned by St Symeon the New Theologian at the crossroads of the first and second millennia. Those times, in many ways, monasticism represented a spiritual and prophetic phenomenon echoing the experience of martyrdom.
But there are also very positive aspects to be added to this picture, of dynamic and creative interactions between Church and Empire. One of the most significant is the fact that the Christian Empire offered to the Church new opportunities for its experience and mission. A long chain of pious emperors and empresses considered themselves as accountable before Christ for the well-being of God’s people, the defence of faith and the spreading of the Gospel to the barbarian nations. Characteristically, many emperors and empresses (largely imitated by numerous dignitaries) embraced the spiritual path of monasticism, consecrating for the coming centuries a cultural, social and political paradigm which may be considered one of the most impressive contributions of the Gospel to the renewal of the world. It is therefore not by chance that the Empire has become an immense Christian arena, first allowing and then actively supporting the public implementation of the very criteria that governed the early ecclesial life.
The apostolic spirit of Orthodoxy constituted the primary and underlaying factor determining the State, for example, to observe the principles of philanthropy and to support the struggle of the Church to build the first coherent and efficient system of social care in history. Also significant is the fact that the Empire, through a series of visionary rulers, has undertaken the task to assist the Church in its effort to articulate and refine the canonical form of the apostolic faith. As such, in conjunction with the Church, the emperors convened and organised the ecumenical councils (centuries 4-8), officially endorsing their decisions and proclaiming worldwide their authority. Thus, the apostolic faith and life – grounds of the ecclesial unity – have become this way the background of the Empire’s own legislation. And indeed, the Christological principle of theandricity – the true cornerstone of Orthodoxy and the ultimate criterion in all doctrinal debates – has constituted the main standpoint of the imperial doctrine of symphony.
This was already obvious during the rule of Justinian the Great – author of the famous hymn Ὁ μονογενής (‘Only-begotten’), celebrating the mystery of theandricity –, the first emperor to elaborate on symphony. According to this doctrine, the Empire represented the earthly side of the heavenly aspect as constituted by the Church, in other words the body of a soul.
It took long time till the complete Christianisation of the Empire and the Greek-Roman world yet this effort resulted in the conversion of a whole society and culture. Along this process, symptomatically, the Church and the Empire have influenced and shaped each other within a unique and fascinating synthesis known to posterity as the Byzantine model. To note a specific feature of the Byzantine synthesis, it is a matter of historical evidence that with more than several occasions the fate of the Empire was put at risk precisely for the sake of preserving the highly spiritual exigencies of the Gospel as experienced by the Orthodox Church. The most impressive outcome of the inculturation of the Orthodox Church within the Byzantine context, however, should be undoubtedly considered its theological spirituality and art, which still shapes Orthodoxy around the world.
Along this process of historical becoming and spiritual achievements, Orthodoxy had to experience also painful moments. Among them, the most noteworthy remain without doubt the Oriental schism occurring at mid fifth century, when (for theological and non-theological reasons) the non Greek-speaking Churches of the East have chosen another faith path. Also noteworthy remains the Western schism of the Latin Church, gradually produced (centuries 9-11) by the ambitions of power of papacy and the Carolingian state. Unfortunately, the repeated attempts of both the Byzantine Church and Empire to bridge the gap between Orthodoxy and the heterodox Churches proved to be unfruitful, on the one hand because of the subsequent fall of the Orientals under pagan rule (Persian, Arab and Turk) and on the other because of the increasing arrogance of the Westerners. Actually, the Latins have manifested unfriendly ways of relating with the Orthodox East, taking advantage of the continuous pagan assaults upon Constantinople to either impose their terms (the so-called attempts of reunion) or literally to conquer (the famous fourth crusade, 1204).
To all these was added the unbreakable expansion of the Ottoman power over the traditional regions of the Orthodox Church. Long before the fall of Constantinople (1453) but mostly after, with the exception of the Russian, Romanian, Baltic and Polish Churches, the whole Orthodox world was under pagan dominion, experiencing dire situations and being compelled to adopt a strategy of survival similar to that of the early Church. Consequently, new martyrs shone upon the ecclesial firmament, manifesting the inner spiritual strength of Orthodoxy.
However, in spite of all adversities, the flame of traditional spirituality – far from becoming extinct – continued to grow within and around monasteries, in the hesychast revival which contributed to the relaunch of Orthodoxy in modern times. From an ecclesiastical point of view, even if under strict control and at times unbearable pressures, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople have continued to represent the canonical factor of communion for all Orthodox, managing to coordinate the efforts of the Churches from inside and outside the Ottoman rule. It is due to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s ministry of unity that the emergence of autocephalous and autonomous Orthodox Churches in modernity, beyond various jurisdictional tensions, did not produce further schisms.
Modernity has arrived with new challenges for the Orthodox Church. One of the most serious was the obvious discontinuity between the traditional Orthodox mindset and the non-traditional, if not thoroughly anti-traditional, modern culture. Configured by a very different spirit, Orthodoxy was totally taken by surprise by the emergence of new cultural trends related to the emphatically secular character of society. It is perhaps not surprisingly, therefore, that in their hurried attempt to update and secure a place within the frame of the brave new world, the Orthodox Churches embraced with uncritical enthusiasm various nationalist and social ideologies.
It is precisely the nationalist propensities – in the form of the so-called, and condemned, phyletism (priority of ethnicity over ecclesial criteria) – that caused gravely to the coherence of the Orthodox commonwealth. This represents, obviously, another modern challenge addressed to the Orthodox Church. Oblivious of the unifying spirit shared by the tradition of the first millennium, the national Churches have been endeavoured to unwisely substitute the natural category of nation, or ethnicity, for the theandric criteria which shape the ecclesial mindset. Along with, and in close connection to, the phyletist reorganisation of the Orthodox diaspore, another sign of corruption of the ecclesial mindset has been the innovation of special feasts, dedicated by various Churches to the observance of the sum of their ‘national saints’. This aspect is highly significant, since this apparently benign innovation actually manifests just phyletist sentiments, of national arrogance, which contribute greatly to the alienation and distance between the partners (rather than sister-Churches) within the Orthodox commonwealth.
Characteristically and consequently, in recent times the Orthodox proved inability to bring one coherent message to a world spiritually disoriented. However, if the legitimate attempt to fit within the scenery of modern world actually arrived to unexpectedly negative outcomes, misguiding many Orthodox Churches to embrace phyletism (transforming the Orthodox oikoumene into a Protestant-like federation of independent Churches), Orthodoxy as an ensemble managed to address maturely the essence of the new world. Thus, parallel to the proclamation of the ‘dogma of the European man’s infallibility’ (Fr Justin Popovitch), canonised and totalised by the Roman papacy, the Orthodox Church offered modernity a different answer. In the famous encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs of 1848, opposing, on traditional grounds, the idea of one man’s infallibility, Orthodoxy presented implicitly to the world the program of a ‘structured pneumatocracy’, where hierarchy and community constitute together a coherent witnesses to the divinehuman wisdom revealed from above. Unfortunately, the message of the Orthodox commonwealth was not positively received by a delusional society, drunk with their dream of all-knowing and omnipotence. We all taste now the bitter consequences of this lack of sensibility for wisdom. Unfortunately, again, as a reaction to being ignored and despised, many Orthodox have taken the path of an uncritical rejection of modernity, barricading behind a (distorted) sense of tradition.
However, to be traditional means to remain faithful to the truth and also creatively open to new missionary contexts. Archbishop Stylianos (‘The Place of Tradition in the Christian Faith’) aptly observes that tradition is not so much a treasury of structures and forms but rather a living current of life, a way of existing, thinking and feeling… Tradition is not just a way of handling matters of major or minor importance, but rather the spirit which leaves its creative traces through all possible expressions.
Today, in a pluralistic and increasingly globalised world, the Orthodox Church is called not just to give a truthful and united testimony to the apostolic faith and life, but also, and for this purpose, to recover its inner coherence. In order to arrive to coherency, the Orthodox commonwealth should overcome, however, the undermining ramifications of phyletism and learn to appreciate again our traditionally hierarchical structure of communion. St Paul knew what the dangers of isolation and fragmentation are when he wrote (Ephesians 4:1-6):
I, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.
Meekness and humility in Christ imply therefore that we are able to discern what is from God and what is against God, also what means to abandon the traditional wisdom and to be “carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles” (Ephesians 4:14). Meekness and humility, founded on the ecclesial wisdom, will hopefully teach the national Churches to acknowledge the necessity of a strong united Orthodox voice around the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in these uncertain times of dissolution and loss of identity. Only by healing its self-inflicted wounds, the Orthodox commonwealth could become again one polyphonic, multicultural, voice, able to truthfully give witness to our traditional values.
Very Rev. Dr Doru Costache
Senior Lecturer in Patristic Studies,
St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College
Why do I need to go to Church in order to believe?
The prevailing image of the Church amongst most people today is that of an organized religion with a distinct code of rules, a conglomeration of laws and complex structures. The Church is simply thought to be an institution in society alongside other institutions fulfilling the needs of people side by side with other entities like business, government, labor and entertainment. These people are happy to allot a role to the Church as long as it does not interfere in the functions of the other agencies. However, understood only as a society, entirely integrated in the world, the Church can lose its world-transforming power if it remains a mere institution alongside others. On the other hand, other people believe that Jesus did leave the keys to His kingdom to the Church as we read in St Matthew’s Gospel (cf 16.9), but it would appear to them today, that the Church has lost those keys. And for this reason you hear many people say, “Jesus yes, Church no!”
But the Church is not a mere human society but has both a human and divine character. The Church is Christ throughout the ages; it is the body of Christ present in the world today. For this reason, whilst it is true that the Church is in the world, it is something more – it is the body of Christ – that is, God incarnate “prolonged unto the ages”. And one needs to be in communion participating in the life of this body if one wants to be considered a member of the Church. Christianity is not simply knowing certain facts about Christ but experiencing Him through the life in the Church; by literally “eating and drinking” Christ Himself in the gift of Holy Communion.
It becomes apparent just how important it is to participate in the very life of the Church. One needs to be grafted upon the Church which and not stand afar simply knowing certain facts about it. Just like any organ or part of our body, as healthy as it may be in itself, cannot exist isolated from all other parts of the body, since there is an interdependence between all parts of our body, so too, human persons, as healthy as they may think they are alone, need one another if they want to live the fullness of life and not just survive. To be part of this body means precisely a distinct way of existing whereby we commune life; that is we exist only because we participate in the life-giving unity of the unified body.
It is not our individual virtues or attributes which will save us but our participation in the body of Christ which is the Church. And the centre of this communion is the Eucharist where we share the common nourishment of life; that is the body and blood of Christ which the fathers of the Church have called the bread of immortality. In this way, not only can we become one with Christ but we become one with all those present in this communal event. The human person must overcome this false sense of security that it is better to remain alone since there is no danger in getting hurt because living life in this way, totally isolated from others, leads to our death whilst still alive. Rather, the true destiny of human persons is to exist the way God exists, that is free – free from the bounds of death; loving – that is ceasing to draw their existence from their individuality which is corrupt and mortal and instead seeking the freedom of personal relationships – a life as communion of love.
What true sense of comfort and peace of mind being in this sign of solidarity between those around us. The greatest gift that the Church gives us is not simply teachings about Christ and salvation but Christ Himself and salvation itself since God promises that He is present in His Church. I end with a beautiful quote from Genesis regarding the Church: “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (Gen 28:17)
Dr Philip Kariatlis
Academic Director and Senior Lecturer in Theology,
St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College
The Contemporary World in the Church Today
It would be no exaggeration to state that Church life in today’s world has become so irrelevant that even the title of the article may, at first sight seem puzzling. One would expect a title such as “The Church in the world today” and not the other way around as has been suggested. In other words, one may ask, is the Church just another institution which exists alongside others in society, like governments and other organisations whose worth is defined in terms of their efficacy in promoting the values of the world today? Or is the Church the all-embracing reality, the context in which society exists and functions? Is it more correct to refer to, “the Church in the world” or “the world in the Church”? It is this dilemma that this article seeks to clarify. However, before discussing this all important question, we will now proceed to describe and critically reflect upon the reality of the world today. Only then we will be in a position to point out the significance of the Church in contemporary society.
The reality of the contemporary world today is one whose course of events is determined primarily by economic factors. This can easily be seen from simply tracing how the meaning of “economy” has evolved throughout the centuries to reflect this reality. Originally the word “economy” meant the laws governing a household or the world in general. However, today this term has been limited in its scope to denote specifically matters pertaining to finance since everything in today’s world is governed by money. For this reason we hear so often the well-known phrase: “time is money!” This phenomenon reflects clearly the extent to which consistent materialism has triumphed in today’s society. One needs only to note the rapid globalizational forces of the Western world and its capitalist outlook to appreciate the extent of its influence on every nation of the world today. It is this plutocratic world view (the rule of the affluent), which is moving and shaping history today. Such a theory has given birth to consumerism, which continues to hide behind popular expressions of “progress” and “development”. However, when taken to its extremes, consumerism, as Prof. Yannaras so profoundly notes, “levels whole civilizations, uproots ever-growing populations from centuries old spiritual traditions, renders politics useless, obliterates social aspirations.” And it is tragic to see that on the collective level, one can already begin to discretely discern these destructive effects of the so called ‘human liberties’.
In fact so embedded is this extreme capitalist paradigm in society at large that merely questioning its validity is seen as curious since most people have defined themselves solely in terms of their financial successes or comforts as if all other aspects of life are irrelevant. The motto by which the modern human person lives is: “I must ensure my economic success at all costs” even if this means compromising or worse still destroying relations not only with other people but with the environment at large. Whereas whole communities of old lived with the truth that good deeds carried out for the common good of society would last for ever, our preoccupation today for the common good has been lost. Instead ‘individual’ achievement cut off from the communion of a united body is espoused which, in turn gives rise to an apathy towards the moral advancement of a society as a whole.
In critically reflecting upon the policies, which are being formulated by our “modern, democratic” governments today we are justified in asking if they are in fact taking a stance or if they are they mere ‘pawns’ in the hands of multinational global institutions (investments banks, insurance organisations, media giants et al.). It may seem so obvious to some that modern politicians do not promulgate policies as such, which can truly advance a society but are rather subject to the whims of these multi-national financial institutions. One is perhaps justified in drawing such conclusions in seeing major decisions and policies being taken by these impersonal economic directorates instead of being decided by nationwide informed democratic processes. Furthermore, how else could one explain why they are so easily ready to sell national assets at such rapid rates in the name of ‘privatisation’ of course.
On a personal level, such consumerism has influenced human beings to such an extent that their entire life is driven by a passionate thirst to acquire these never ending commodities, which are continuously invented for the alleged amusement of the individual. Not only is one’s entire life outlook reduced to a child-like myth or one endless amusement park where we are constantly bombarded with ever new commodities but more importantly this way of life has inevitably led people to forget about the reality of death. Simple sayings formulated by saintly people of the past such as “keep you mind in hell and despair not” seem ridiculous and therefore silenced. This triumph of materialism, beyond the death that it has created for existential questions, has also brought the death of people’s concern for the arts, music and culture. These are considered as mere entertainment “add-ons” for the occasional attendance as long as they do not interfere with the economic priorities of society.
To reflect upon this a little further, one needs only to take a look at the state of Arts departments in universities to appreciate the truth in this. Lecturers in the Humanities are continually retiring and are not replaced. Subjects, in the classics for example, are becoming more and more irrelevant not only to students but also to the university administrators themselves who are not interested in keeping these subjects on board. To mention a concern for metaphysical questions, or issues regarding the general morality of a society or questions pertaining to love, which, of old were formative for the advancement of a community, let alone any mention of God seems bizarre if not absurd in today’s society. Questions pertaining to the meaning of existence, the existential otherness of all human beings with their endless possibilities hidden within are meaningless preoccupations. That is, until something seriously unexpected comes our way, by way of sickness – cancer, heart attack, stroke, nervous break downs – only then do we stop for a moment to reflect upon something which is beyond the ephemeral and passing.
It is of much interest and in need of serious explanation and reflection to examine why this way of life has not been born out of atheist or communist societies, as one would expect at first sight. Rather this materialistic way of life has been born out of countries predominantly moulded by alleged ‘Christian’ ideals. I would argue that the turning point began when Christian institutions began to abandon a way of life understood as a gift of communion opting instead for an individualistic pursuit of empirical positivism (that is, only realities which can physically be experienced are deemed real). This loss of communion brought about, what Nietzche called the death of God whose being is communion. When God ceased to be experienced as a relationship of Persons and instead became an object and concept of the intellect whose existence can be proved by rational arguments, He ceased to be existentially real. It was this personal God that Nietzche affirmed was dead and he was right.
The birth of the Enlightenment and the reaction to this philosophy which gave birth to Marxism, Capitalism and the Post-modern world was the natural consequence of this intellectualisation of God. Christian ontology, cosmology and anthropology based on communion was substituted for individualism, political liberalism, utilitarian rationalism, moralistic legalism. One is shocked, for example at the extent of this individualism, in hearing the news that in Helsinki an employee died whilst working in his office only to be discovered by fellow colleagues after two days. This concrete example stresses most clearly the extent of the crowded solitude in which modern society finds itself. Questions on God are not even spoken about since human being’s preoccupation on materialism have lead to a metaphysical nihilism (a death of the beyond).
Now, an underlying cause which has given birth to modern society, as described above, is a loss of communion in one way or another, whether this be a transition from a Christian understanding of the communal aspect of the person to an understanding of the person as individual, or a transition from truth (a-letheia) which originally meant a disclosure beckoning for communion and relation to its meaning today – that is simply as an objective reality. The truth that life is truly discovered only in communion with others has been lost. Only as participants, relating with others can human persons, whose true being is communion, transcend their individualism and give rise to another way of life which is victorious over loneliness, isolationism and even death.
In response to all the above, it would be the firm conviction of the Orthodox tradition, that the entire world would necessarily be destined to this isolationism and death, had not the Church existed which offers the world another way of existence – that of God’s way of existence which is communal par excellence and therefore life-giving. It is this communal way of life, which the Church has always proclaimed and which alone can transform an individualistic mode of existence to a communal one. This ecclesial or communal way of life, whose epicentre is the Eucharistic community is not a nostalgic desire to experience again a romanticised past of our Christian heritage but is the most sure and trodden path of so many generations past giving the possibility for the realisation of existential freedom – a freedom even from death. It is for this reason that the Church must proclaim once again the Gospel proclamation of the freedom of the person and indeed the freedom of the entire world from the constraints of time and death realised in the event of communion.
Since the Church is the event of communion par excellence – that is, the most intimate event of communion between the created world and the divine – can it offer the world God’s communal way of eternal existence by grace. It is into the radically new communal reality which is able offer even freedom from death, that the entire created world, not just human persons, is invited to participate and share in. The human person must overcome this false sense of security that it is better to remain alone since there is no danger in getting hurt because living life in this way, totally isolated from others, leads to our death whilst still alive. Rather, the true destiny of human persons is to exist the way God exists, that is free – free from the bounds of death; loving – that is ceasing to draw their existence from their individuality which is corrupt and mortal and instead seeking the freedom of personal relationships – a life as communion of love.
It has been the Church, which has always existed to offer this communion of love to the entire world. In fact, the Orthodox tradition would claim that it was for this purpose that God created the world – that is to realise a most intimate communion of love between the world and Himself. Since the Church, in its essence is God’s gift of communion to the world – the solution par excellence to the impasse of isolationism – it exists from the very moment that God decides to communicate with the world when He creates it out of nothing. It is for this reason that we can speak of the Church as preceding the creation of the world, since it was part of God’s eternal plan to communicate with His creation. For this reason, Bulgakov writes that “the church [is] the pre-eternal purpose and the foundation of creation.” Therefore, seeing the Church as this communal event par excellence between God and the world, it would be more correct to speak in terms of the world today in the Church rather than the Church in the world as it commonly stated. Such a statement which may seem daring at first expresses nothing other than God’s desire, arising out of His absolute love, to share with the creation those things that are His – life, love and even divinity through Himself, that is through His Church.
Dr Philip Kariatlis
Academic Director and Senior Lecturer in Theology,
St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College
Parts of the Church building
The Church Building is divided into three parts called the Narthex, Nave and Sanctuary:
1. The Narthex is the first part where we enter, light a candle, venerate the icons and generally prepare ourselves for entrance into the Nave for worship. Here when we enter we do the sign of the Cross, light a Candle (which symbolises our acceptance of Christ as the light of the World), and kiss the icons (first the Icon of Christ and then the others). It is in the Narthex that we slow down our thoughts and begin our prayer. The Narthex is a place of preparation for our entrance into another reality, namely the Heavenly worship of the Church. If we arrive during the reading of the Bible or during any processions, we should stand still until they are finished before lighting a candle or doing anything else in the Narthex.
2. The Nave is the main middle part of the Church where the congregation gathers for worship. It represents Heaven on earth.
3. The Sanctuary, separated from the Nave by the Iconostasis, is always located toward the East because Christ, the Light of the world in symbolised by the rising sun. In the sanctuary are the Altar Table, the Proskomide (where the Gifts for Holy Communion are prepared), and the Large Crucifix reminding us of Jesus sacrifice on the Cross for our salvation. Strictly speaking, only the clergy are allowed in this area and those to whom they give a blessing to be there also.
The Church holds many services. Matins is a morning prayer service usually held before the Divine Liturgy on Sunday and other Feast Days. Vespers is an evening prayer service usually held on the eve of a feast. The most frequently attended service is the Divine Liturgy held every Sunday and major feast day throughout the year. Here at St. George we also hold the Divine Liturgy in English every Saturday Night. The Divine Liturgy is sometimes also referred to as the Divine Eucharist. The Liturgy is the Service in which we have Holy Communion. During each service the Priest stands at the Altar. He is human, a member of God’s people, but vested with the authority to offer the Eucharist and lead the worship. It is the proper custom to be at Church for the beginning of the Liturgy or at least before the Epistle and Gospel Readings.
The Priesthood in the Orthodox Church
The Clergy in the Orthodox Church are the ordained leaders of the Community. St. Paul says in the Bible that they will answer before God for the people in their care. Their responsibility is very great and they are heavily involved with the people of their community. During their ordination the people must give their approval by calling out Worthy during the Sacrament of Ordination. The community has high expectations of the clergy and generally has much love for it as well.
There are three orders within the ordained ministry of the Orthodox Church. A Deacon is the first step in ordination. The Deacon helps at services, in parishes, or may be attached as an assistant to a Bishop. He is not given authority to lead services on his own and thus he cannot officiate at the Eucharist or other Sacraments on his own. A Priest (also known as a Presbyter) is the second level in the ministry. He is vested with the authority to lead worship and officiate at all Sacraments except that of Ordination, which only a Bishop can effect. The Priest is usually assigned a Parish in which he ministers both the Word of God and the Sacraments. Like the Deacon he is allowed to marry so long as he does so before ordination. His wife, because of her special role as Mother in the community is called Presbytera. Presbytera is the feminine form of the word Presbyter, which literally translated from Greek means Elder. The Deacon’s wife is called Diaconisa. The highest level of Ordination is that of the Bishop. Ultimately he carries most responsibility before God for the community. In Greek he is called Episkopo which literally translated means Overseer. All Bishops are equal in the Orthodox Church, and there is nothing like the Pope as Supreme Pontiff. For administrative reasons there are Bishops who have a title that equates to extra responsibilities, such as Archbishop or Metropolitan. Since the 7th century, Orthodox Canon Law has not allowed married men into the Episcopacy.
All clergy in the Orthodox Church can trace their ordination through the laying on of hands to the Apostles. This is called Apostolic Succession and is very important from an Orthodox point of view in safeguarding our apostolic inheritance. It is a strong Orthodox custom to show respect toward the Priest as one responsible before God for leading the community. One physical expression of this is to kiss his hand. This is an ancient custom signifying respect and love. The Church believes there is a blessing for the person who does this.
The Sign of the Cross
The Cross is the most powerful Symbol in Christianity, because Christ died on it. The proper Orthodox Cross is made by holding the thumb and first two fingers of the right hand together and resting the remaining two fingers on the palm. The three fingers together represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the remaining two on the palm represent the two natures of Christ as God and man. This is a summary of the Christian Faith. The fingers and thumb are placed first on the forehead, then the stomach, the right shoulder, then the left shoulder. (The right shoulder is touched first because the Bible teaches that Christ sits at the right hand of the Father). The motion of making the Cross should be continuous and distinct, and certainly not rushed. Sometimes a person will make the sign of the Cross and then bow and touch the floor. This is common in traditional Orthodox worship and is known as a Metania or Prostration. Touching the ground is a reminder of where we come from and where we will return, namely the earth.
When to make the sign of the Cross:
1. Whenever you feel the need
2. Before and after any prayers
3. When you enter and leave the Narthex and Nave
4. Before you kiss an Icon, Cross, or the Gospel Book
5. When you pass the Altar
6. When you hear any of the following phrases;
* Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
* Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, Have Mercy on Us
* The words Christ, Theotokos, Panayia or Virgin Mary
* The Name of a Saint
7. After the reading of the Epistle or Gospel
8. Near the end of the Creed at the phrase In One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church
9. Before and after the Consecration during the Divine Liturgy (when the Priest says Your Own of Your Own we offer You, In every way and for every Thing. This is the point when the Priest prays with the people for God to make the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.
10. At the end of the Lord’s Prayer while the Priest says For Yours is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
11. Before and after receiving Holy Communion
12. Before receiving Antidoron (The blessed bread at the end of the service)
When to Stand, Sit or Kneel During the Divine Liturgy
1. Stand at the beginning of the Liturgy at Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever… until the end of the Great Litany at For to You belong all glory, power and worship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…Sit after the Priest has finished this last phrase.
2. Stand when the procession with the Gospel begins (this is called the Small Entrance and symbolises the coming of Christ into the world). Stay standing until the beginning of the Epistle reading, at the beginning of which we may sit.
3. Stand when the Gospel is to be read, stand when you hear the Priest say Wisdom. Attend. Let us hear the Holy Gospel. Peace be with you all. Stay standing after the Gospel and through the Procession with the Gifts for Holy Communion (this is called the Great Entrance and symbolises Christ coming to His Passion). We can sit after the Priest has placed the Gifts upon the Altar, when we hear him say Let us complete our prayer to the Lord.
4. Stand when we hear the Priest say Commemorating our All-Holy, most pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, Theotokos and ever virgin Mary and Through the mercies of Your only begotten Son with Whom You are blessed. Kneel when you hear the Priest saying Your Own from Your Own we offer You in every way and for every Thing (On Sundays and between Pascha and Pentecost it is a custom to Bow instead of kneel at this time because these are periods of celebrating the Resurrection)Keep standing through the Creed and until the Priest says Having commemorated all the Saints, again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord…
5. Stand for the Lord’s Prayer when you hear the Priest say And make us worthy Master…then the Our Father. Keep standing until you hear the Priest say Let us attend.
6. Stand when the Priest comes out with Holy Communion. While Holy Communion is being distributed some people like to keep standing out of respect for Christ’s physical presence in the Eucharist while others sit. You make a choice here.
7. Stand when Holy Communion is finished and keep standing until the end of the Service.
8. Sit when the Priest is preaching.
Rev. Dimitri Tsakas
Parish Priest of St. George-Brisbane (QLD)
Orthodoxy and Ecumenism
Many times, while attending ecumenical functions, I have been amused and at times a little frustrated to see a registration table for Roman Catholics and another for Protestants. I would stand between them and shrug my shoulders wondering where I should go. Orthodoxy is neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant; it has much in common with both, but it also stands apart from both. Orthodoxy also sees itself in a fragile position within the Ecumenical Movement. It is neither completely at home within ecumenism, nor is closed to other Christian groups wishing to dialogue with it. To understand this, one needs to understand something of the nature of Orthodoxy.
In this attempt to outline the Orthodox approach to ecumenism, I need to convey a glimpse of the theological issues behind this idea. This is not merely a question of action, “Should we or shouldn’t we?” It is a more important question of theology, “Can we or can’t we, and if we can what form does our ecumenism take?” This short paper will attempt to give some insight into the dilemma of Orthodoxy and ecumenism. However, it is not a summary of Orthodox Dogma or Tradition it is only trying to read the pulse of Orthodoxy as it considers the ecumenical movement.
Many churches are facing modern crises that are calling them to question their often long held beliefs and dogmas. Issues such as the ordination of women to the sacred Priesthood of Christ and Modernism have been on the ‘agenda’ of Churches for some time. Other issues such as ‘New Age’ philosophies and the increasing dilemma of bio-ethics have seen various Christian groups take stances completely opposed to those of other Christian traditions. There are even some controversial subjects that have seen division within Churches. The Orthodox also are facing new dilemmas, but these are about how the Church relates to a modern and rapidly changing world, and to other Christians who, to the Orthodox at least, seem to be constantly changing their face and their nature. It may seem extraordinary to some, but one of the most controversial issues that has gripped Orthodoxy in recent years has been ECUMENISM
Much of the heat of the ecumenical argument within Orthodoxy comes from a difference of opinion as to the nature of ecumenism. This confusion, I think, exists within other Christian groups.
In his book “Our Orthodox Christian Faith”, Athanasios Frangopoulos lists ecumenism with nasties like Arianism and other heretical teachings. He states:
“Ecumenism is a new heresy that has appeared in our days … we Orthodox must stand far apart. Indeed, we ought to fight against it by enlightening those Orthodox who are ignorant of ecumenism and what it entails”.
In stark contrast are the views expressed in the writings of the now famous convert to Orthodox Christianity, Timothy (or later Kallistos) Ware. This ‘western’ Orthodox theologian is now an assistant Greek Orthodox Bishop in England. Bishop Kallistos cites the opinions of many theologians who see ecumenism not just as a positive action of the Orthodox Church, but as a necessary response to other Christian groups that do not share the same environment, the same attitude, the same phronema (Spiritual identity and intention) as Orthodoxy.
The next question is an obvious one, how can theologians belonging to the same Tradition express opposing views on ecumenism? I quote from Athanasios Frangopoulos again:
“Ecumenism maintains that: the truth and Grace of Christ is not to be found in any one single Church, but partially in all the Churches… Now if we put all these Churches together and create an Ecumenical Church we also unite all the pieces of the faith and the truth, and come up with the whole truth of Christ… (However), that which is divided cannot be joined, and the Ecumenists shall never achieve the ‘union of the Churches’ because there are not many Churches but one … the Orthodox Catholic Church”.
Many non-Orthodox Christians involved in the ecumenical movement would hold to the above belief that Frangopoulos so completely rejects. Bishop Kallistos and most of the Orthodox Churches (the family of Orthodoxy) would agree with Frangopoulos on the unique and fundamental integrity of the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church. They would, however, DISAGREE with the above definition of ecumenism. There is not a difference of doctrine here, but, as I have already said, a difference in the understanding of the nature of ecumenism.
Most of the Orthodox see ecumenism as an expression of love, a working out of the desire to be one in Christ, even as the Son and the Father are one. We cannot hope to understand each other if we do not share of ourselves and try to explain what it is that makes us what we are. However, for this hope to become reality, Christians of differing backgrounds will need to agree on the fundamentals of the Faith. If we attempt to by-pass this, to compromise ourselves, then unity is false and the fears of Frangopoulos are justified. Ecumenism involves discussion and education; these must precede any attempt at reconciliation of the Churches. It is this that most Orthodox believe is ecumenism.
The Orthodox assert that only they have retained the fullness of the Truth, handed down by Christ to the Apostles, and handed on by them to the Church, down to the present day. The Orthodox claim is made without any false pride. It is not arrogance, but adherence to the Holy Tradition – unchanged. Many of you would no doubt wish to argue this point, but it is the Orthodox position. For us Orthodox to be faithful to this claim, a sharing of this truth with those outside Orthodoxy is not an option; to act otherwise is to be false to ourselves, and to what we believe.
We speak with other Christians out of love, but also because we believe that we have the truth that only Orthodoxy, out of all the Christian Churches, has retained. There can be no coming together of divergent dogmas, no ‘partial’ union; when we can be of the same Tradition (with a capital ‘T’), then and only then can our ecumenism lead us to unity.
Let’s look at what another Orthodox writer says of ecumenism. Stanley Harakas has written in “Something is stirring in world Orthodoxy”:
“The chief issue for the Orthodox regarding participation in the ecumenical movement has been the doctrine of the Church. Some Orthodox feel strongly that participation… implies a betrayal of the faith… The fears of the anti-ecumenists have not been realised… However, neither have the rosy expectations of the Orthodox ecumenists been fulfilled”.
Orthodoxy is enigmatic to many other Churches, but they themselves are often embarrassed and troubled by the actions and opinions of others in the ecumenical movement. Orthodoxy has been involved in the ecumenical movement from the beginning. If ecumenism involves dialogue with an honest wish to work towards unity -a physical communion with all who are Christian- then the Orthodox rejoice. However, if Ecumenism is about compromise, about rejecting the basic dogmas of the Tradition of the Church of God, then the Orthodox will pull back because they will not give up on this treasure -this “pearl of great price”- which is Orthodoxy. The Orthodox have not reached agreement with other Christians on the fundamental and important doctrines of the Christian Faith, but they go on in their wish for unity, and continue (for the moment at least) in the ecumenical movement.
The words expressed in this paper may seem harsh and unbending. Many may find the Orthodox position an insurmountable obstacle to the unity of the Churches. Nevertheless, the Orthodox Church persists in ecumenical discussion because it seeks the visible unity of all Christians in truth and in love. However, for the Orthodox to ignore their fundamental beliefs in a bid to create some tenuous, ‘common denominator’ Christianity, unity will not be achieved at all; such a thing is destructive. It is a creation of DISUNITY of the Church from her Tradition.
Despite what might seem a gloomy and negative prognosis, there is still hope and encouragement on many fronts for Orthodoxy. I am here presenting this paper this evening. This surely indicates the hope of at least one Orthodox priest for positive discussion with other Christians. If the Orthodox saw no constructive purpose for the ecumenical movement, this exercise would be pointless and merely an attempt at dissension and ecumenical terrorism.
Orthodoxy is in dialogue with many other Churches, eg: The Uniting Church in Australia, the Anglican Churches, The Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Churches. Much social statement and action have seen various Orthodox Churches joining Roman Catholics and Protestants with a united front. Ecumenism has allowed the Orthodox to come to an understanding of the traditions of many other Churches, and it has also opened up Orthodoxy to the curious eyes of the rest of Christendom.
Although much of Orthodoxy’s agreed action with others has been on a ‘non-doctrinal level’, discussion, common action and an acceptance of the integrity of other Christians must precede any unity on more fundamental levels. Orthodox Christians are usually not permitted to share in the Eucharistic Supper with other Christians, nor are Orthodox and other clergy permitted to co-officiate at services. However, because we can and do attend each other’s services, the desire for understanding and unity is there. Will this desire ever lead to unity? I cannot say, but my hope is that this will take place.
Sadly, much has occurred in recent times that has seen the Orthodox question their position in the ecumenical movement. The collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe has seen serious division and even a suspension of official dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The ordination of women to what many Churches believe is the sacred Priesthood of Christ, is seen by the Orthodox as a grave obstacle to unity.
The recent World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly in Canberra had the Orthodox delegates meeting in the midst of this ecumenical gathering to consider whether they should continue in the ecumenical movement at all. Many Orthodox now see WCC in a new sinister role. They view it as a catalyst for a total liberalising of the Christian Faith, a movement to coalesce the churches into a ‘Super Church’, without set dogma and tradition. Some more extreme Orthodox writers even refer to WCC as heralding the anti-Christ. These may not be universal opinions within Orthodoxy, but they do show something of the tension and hesitation that Orthodoxy feels concerning itself and ecumenism.
I began this short paper with some questions. Should Orthodoxy be involved in reaching out to other Churches and Christians of a different ‘phronema’? My answer is yes. If we are to be true to the words of Christ, “that they all may be one”, then I can answer only yes. However, if the question is: “Will the Orthodox continue in the ecumenical movement?”, then my answer is not nearly so definite, it all depends on what the ecumenical movement becomes and how other Christians continue to see the nature of ecumenism. Orthodoxy continues in ecumenical dialogue in many countries and on an international level. Indeed about half the member Churches of the Australian Council of Churches are Orthodox. What form our ecumenical involvement takes in the future, is the subject of much consideration and prayer.
Rev. Timothy Evangelinidis
Parish Priest of St. George-Hobart (TAS)
An Ecumenical and Theological assessment of the World Council of Churches (WCC) assembly
The Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches was held on 3 – 14 December, 1998 at Harare, Zimbabwe. I had the privilege of being nominated by His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos to the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as prior commitments prevented him from taking up the offer of the Church to lead this delegation. This role was ultimately filled by His Eminence Metropolitan Athanasios of Heliopolis. The physical surroundings of southern Africa provided an appropriate backdrop for the gathering together of some 1000 delegates representing 336 member churches. Added to this were hundreds of observers, staff, stewards and visitors who transformed the campus of the University of Zimbabwe into a veritable microcosm. The theme “Turn to God, Rejoice in Hope” took on a new meaning for western participants confronted with the pain and suffering of the African people but also with their contagious optimism and hope springing from their faith in God’s presence amongst them. ‘We do not blame God for our suffering,’ one African delegate announced, ‘We know that God suffers with us.’
This theme was introduced to the Assembly by three theologians who gave addresses on the second morning (4/12). His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania spoke on Anamnesis (translated ‘remembrance’) – the need to remember that which defines our Christian identity not as an intellectual function but rather as action. This anamnesis is expressed in all aspects of life and finds fulfilment in the Eucharist which otherwise has the potential to become a simple celebration cut off from life. Wanda Deifelt, a Lutheran professor from Brazil, referred to the need for metanoia (conversion) in all aspects of our personal and social lives. Kosuke Koyama, former professor at Union Theological Seminary, New York, spoke on the last part of the theme -‘Rejoice in Hope’ – and declared that hope is not a time story but a love story and that just as in the case of the Prodigal Son. God runs to the periphery to receive the lost and this periphery then becomes the centre. Grace, he said, causes commotion, not tranquillity.
Reflection on this theme formed the basis for our deliberations and discussions. By its very nature, size and variety of activities and people such an assembly is experienced in different ways by its participants and only in part. This paper presents some of the theological and ecumenical issues which I feel dominated the Assembly deliberations and whose outcomes, from an Orthodox perspective at least, are of significant consequence. It does not discuss major social issues that were debated nor can it possibly communicate the great personal rewards that accrue from participation in such a conference no matter what the official results may be.
The Crisis in Orthodox Participation
The Assembly opened in an air of impending crisis concerning its relations with the Orthodox Churches. A growing sense of frustration at the direction and structure of the WCC had reached its climax during the Canberra Assembly of 1991 where the Orthodox issued a separate statement (as did the Evangelicals) expressing particular concerns and raising the possibility of reviewing their membership in the future. In order to prepare for the Harare Assembly two meetings of Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches took place. The first, held in Thessaloniki, Greece from the 29 April – 2 May 1998, included only the canonical Eastern Orthodox. This meeting reaffirmed Orthodox participation and commitment to the ecumenical movement as a ‘mission of witnessing the Truth before the non-Orthodox world.’ It emphasised the faithfulness of all previous Orthodox participants in the WCC to the Tradition of the Orthodox Church.
Nevertheless it expressed deep concern at some of the developments within the WCC which it felt was making full Orthodox participation increasingly untenable. These included the continued demand for intercommunion, inclusive language, ordination of women, rights of sexual minorities and tendencies to religious syncretism. The meeting decided to request a radical restructuring of the WCC to allow for more adequate Orthodox participation. All Orthodox Churches were encouraged to send delegates to the Eighth Assembly in order to communicate their concerns in the following way:
1. Orthodox delegates participating at Harare will present in common this Statement of the Thessaloniki Inter-Orthodox Meeting.
2. Orthodox delegates will not participate in ecumenical services, common prayers, worship and other religious ceremonies at the Assembly.
3. Orthodox delegates generally will not take part in the voting procedure except in certain cases that concern the Orthodox and by unanimous agreement. If it is needed, in the plenary and group discussions, they will present the Orthodox views and positions.
4. These mandates will be maintained until a radical restructuring of the WCC is accomplished to allow adequate Orthodox participation.
5. The Thessaloniki Meeting sought the creation of a Mixed Theological Commission consisting of an equal number of members appointed by the Orthodox Churches and the WCC to discuss ‘…acceptable forms of Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement and the radical restructuring of the WCC.’4 It was envisaged that this Commission would begin its work after the Harare Assembly.
From the 7 – 13 May 1998 a further Orthodox Pre-Assembly meeting took place at St Ephrem Theological Seminary, near Damascus, Syria. This included the Oriental Churches. This meeting considered the Orthodox approach to the Assembly theme but also tackled the issues posed by the Thessaloniki meeting. Its observations and conclusions were couched in much gentler terms (which had the effect of it being largely ignored by all sides during the Assembly itself) but it basically concurred in all matters with Thessaloniki.
The absence of an Assembly Eucharist on the program was noted and appreciated as more adequately reflecting the current ecumenical situation. It noted further the increased difficulty that Orthodox have in participating in non-sacramental common prayer with other Christians due to increasing internal tensions and the changing character of ecumenical worship.
By the time the Damascus meeting was held the WCC had already acted on the proposal to establish a Mixed Theological Commission but two Orthodox Churches announced their withdrawal form the WCC, namely the Church of Georgia and the Church of Bulgaria.
With the opening of the WCC Assembly in December it became apparent that impending crisis would fail to materialise. The quick response of the WCC in setting up the Mixed Theological Commission, the absence of an Assembly Eucharist and a tightly controlled agenda which did not allow certain controversial issues such as homosexuality to emerge had a general calming effect. The presence of observers from the Georgian and Bulgarian Churches as well as a letter from the Georgian Church expressing its hope of rejoining the WCC as soon as certain internal difficulties had been worked out blunted the edge of their withdrawal and reaffirmed Orthodox ecumenical commitment.
Unfortunately the Orthodox delegations failed to coordinate their positions and took different stances on their interpretation of the Thessaloniki and Damascus meetings. The Ecumenical Patriarchate took a flexible position in light of the compromises made by the WCC as a gesture of goodwill whereas the Churches of Russia and Greece felt themselves bound by their Synods to follow the letter of those agreements. This divergence of opinion was manifestly evident on the floor of the Assembly but may also have had the positive effect of emphasising Orthodox concern while at the same time not breaking all the lines of communication with the Protestant churches.
Both the Moderator of the WCC Central Committee, Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia and the General Secretary, Dr Konrad Raiser in their opining comments recognised the problem of Orthodox participation. The Moderator called on all parties to tackle this problem seriously and for the Orthodox in particular ‘…to move from monologue to dialogue, from reaction to action, from contribution to participation, from being observers to becoming full partners in the WCC.’ But he also recognised this problem not as an Orthodox problem but as an ecumenical problem and challenged all participants to view it as such.
The General Secretary in his report accepted that the Orthodox find themselves in structural minority within the WCC and that this situation will only worsen as more Protestant churches are admitted. He recognised that the Council operates along western parliamentary lines of majority rule and that this model may not be the most appropriate for a ‘fellowship of churches’. It alienates not only the Orthodox but also many of the African churches and other churches of the South.
The crisis in Orthodox participation passed over the Harare Assembly, perhaps too easily. But it has been merely delayed. Unless the processes which have been set up deal with the issues raised, are seen to deal with them and can adequately communicate their deliberations and conclusions to the grassroots, Orthodox participation in the WCC in particular and the ecumenical movement in general may dwindle. The difficulty is that no amount of restructuring of the WCC will be able to reconcile divergent approaches to ecumenicism, theology and, increasingly, morality and ethics. Nevertheless new models of relating to one another, perhaps based on confessional lines rather than nationally based churches and on consensus rather than majority rule, may allow all participants to feel that they are being heard on equal terms. Towards a common understanding and vision
The meeting of the WCC Central Committee in 1989 commissioned a process of consultation and study in order to prepare a document that could serve as an ecumenical charter for the twenty first century. The text was intended to reaffirm the churches ecumenical commitment and their common understanding of the role of the WCC after fifty years together. The fruit of this endeavour, entitled ‘Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC (CUV)’, was presented to the Central Committee for discussion in September in 1997 and finally brought to the Assembly for debate and adoption.
In introducing the CUV process to the Assembly, the Moderator Aram I, stated that ‘the aim of this CUV process, which began in 1989, has been to give a fresh articulation to the ecumenical vision that is faithful to the gospel message and responsive to the needs and experiences of the member churches; to spell out the decisive importance of unity, mission, evangelism, diakonia, and justice as the basis of any serious articulation of the ecumenical vision; and to sharpen and give more visibility to coherence, integrity and accountability within interchurch collaboration, interchurch relationship and the WCC’s agenda and programmes.’
In commenting on the text of CUV Marion Best suggested that it was a rather conservative document but that it could not be otherwise if it was going to be received by the churches. She pointed out that it presents a number of challenges to the WCC. Firstly, what should be the criteria for membership of the WCC and what does membership imply? There was debate on whether there were forms of participation other than membership which are more appropriate for the WCC and the ecumenical movement? Secondly, she addressed the Orthodox concerns that looked for a form of participation ‘which would allow a qualitative contribution to the fellowship, and which would take into consideration ecclesiological criteria rather than structural rules and regulations.’In continuing on this point she suggested that a model of organisation based on ‘confessional families’ rather than national churches may be more appropriate. It had been suggested and rejected during the formation of the WCC and perhaps needs to be revisited in light of the current problems.
It was noted that the Middle East Council of Churches uses this model. Finally, she reflected on the call for the establishment of a ‘Forum of Christian churches and ecumenical organisations’ as a way of building more significant and inclusive relationships, especially with those churches that are not members of the WCC. We will return to consider this proposal later in the paper.
The reception of the CUV document by the Assembly did not prove to be as smooth as may have been anticipated. Added to the Orthodox concerns about the nature, direction and structure of the WCC and the call for ‘radical restructuring’ were other voices which deplored the theological jargon of the document, challenged the emphasis on common confession rather than common calling and opened discussion for ways in which non-member churches could participate.
It was obvious that by the time the CUV document returned from Policy Reference Committee 1 to the floor of the Assembly it no longer had the momentum to remain the ecumenical blueprint for the next century. It was admitted that no common vision or understanding for the WCC existed amongst the churches at present and that this document needs to be received, clarified, corrected and elaborated in an ongoing process.12 Reception by the Assembly would not imply full agreement with its contents but rather an affirmation that it is sufficiently rich to inspire the member churches’ future life together. The final motion in receiving the CUV document illustrates the ambiguity of its acceptance. It reads thus: ‘The eighth assembly received with gratitude “Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the World Council of Churches: and urged the WCC to use it as a framework and point of reference as the WCC programmes are evaluated and developed in the future.’
Two significant constitutional consequences for the WCC arose from the CUV process. The first was a proposal to amend the constitution in such a way so that the place of the WCC would be clarified in relation to the churches. Up to this point it was the function of the WCC ‘to call the churches to the goal of visible unity…’ (III,1).
This was changed to ‘The primary purpose of the fellowship of churches in the World Council of Churches is to call one another to visible unity…’ It was felt that this more adequately reflected the role of the WCC as a facilitator and servant of a broader ecumenical movement and was readily accepted by the Assembly. The second amendment was an attempt by the Central Committee to wrest the election of the eight WCC presidents from the Assembly and reserve it for itself as a way de-politicising the election process. In what was a unique moment in this two week conference the Assembly refused to accept the advice of the Central Committee and defeated this proposal in a stunning act of defiance. It was felt that otherwise the collegial presidency would become even more distant and isolated from the grassroots.
As has been already mentioned a proposal was to establish a Forum of Christian Churches and Ecumenical Organisations was raised during the Assembly. This had been based on a consultation convened in August 1998 by decision of the Executive Committee. The conscious decision of a number of churches not to enter the WCC for a variety of reasons led to concerns that the ecumenical movement needed to find new ways of including them. The Roman Catholics and large numbers of Evangelicals and Pentecostals fall into this category. It was envisaged that this body would not become another ecumenical bureaucracy with programs, staff and layers of structure but a meeting place of churches, world Christian confessions, regional and national councils of churches and the WCC where networking would occur and relationships developed.
While the response to this proposal was generally positive, a number of churches expressed certain reservations. Firstly, would the Christological and Trinitarian basis of the WCC be diluted in order to allow churches which did not share them eg Jehovah’s Witnesses to participate. This point was emphasised by the Oriental Orthodox who received assurances that his would not be the case. Secondly, could the Forum become a vehicle for churches who no longer wished to accept the responsibilities and obligations of membership in the WCC to maintain some ecumenical contacts while opting out of the WCC. It was felt that some of the Orthodox Churches might be particularly susceptible to this temptation.
Because of this the Assembly resolved that the matter be referred back to the Central Committee for further consultation and clarification especially regarding the role of the WCC and its member churches in the proposed forum. This process has already begun and the National Council of Churches in Australia has been asked to comment on this proposal. Along with the establishment of the Mixed Theological Commission, action on this Forum might become one of the lasting legacies for which the Eighth Assembly will be remembered. Both these proposals have the potential to change the face of the ecumenical movement in the twenty first century.
The Eighth assembly of the World Council of Churches marked its fiftieth anniversary – its Jubilee. It was intended to reset the course for the ecumenical movement for the next fifty years. To some degree it achieved this. But as one delegate commented, this meeting felt more like the reflection on and completion of an old era and not the beginning of a new one. The Assembly debates were strictly controlled to avoid the emergence of contentious social issues especially homosexuality and abortion. Potential conflicts were quickly diffused by being referred to committees and many delegates began to express frustration at the procedures adopted. Perhaps in a conference of this size and diversity it is not possible to do otherwise. These issues, though, will not go away and will need to be studied and debated in the future.
Nevertheless the Assembly tackled with great honesty a number of underlying concerns which threatened to cripple the WCC from within, always aware of its own limitations. The process of dealing with the Orthodox concerns and the reworking of CUV may be slow but it they are sincerely dealt with then the potential remains for the Ninth Assembly to herald the beginning of a reformed and reinvigorated ecumenical movement. That is certainly our hope.
Rev. Anastasios Bozikis
Parish priest of St. George – Brisbane (QLD)
1. “Evaluation of New Facts in the Relations of Orthodoxy and the Ecumenical Movement” in Fitzgerald, T. and Bouteneff, P. (eds.), Turn to God, Rejoice in Hope: Orthodox Reflections on the Way to Harare, (WCC, Geneva, 1998), p. 137.
3. ibid., p. 138.
5. “Final Statement of the Orthodox Pre-Assembly Meeting” in ibid., p. 10.
6. Aram I, “Report of the Moderator” in Kessler, D. (ed.), Together on the Way: Official Report of the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, (WCC Publications, Geneva, 1999), p. 70.
7. Raiser, K., “Report of the General Secretary” in ibid., p. 96.
8. Raiser, K., ‘Report of the General Secretary’ in Kessler, D. (ed.), Together on the Way: Official Report of the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, (WCC Publications, Geneva, 1999), p. 104.
9. ibid., p. 108.
10. ibid., p. 110.
11. ibid., p. 112-113.
12. ibid., p. 157.
13. ibid., p. 158-159.
The Nicene Creed History
“The Nicene Creed is a ‘Statement of faith’ expressing the fundamental beliefs of the Christian Church. In English, the word ‘creed’ comes from Latin (‘credo’) and means ‘I believe’ (in Greek ‘Pistevo’). A Christian Creed is an expression of fundamental beliefs, beliefs that go to the heart of what defines a Christian. The ‘Nicene Creed’ takes its name from the first ‘Ecumenical’ Council that was held in the ancient city of Nicaea’ in 325 AD. The council was called by the Roman Emperor of the time, Constantine. The clergy gathered for the Council, addressed themselves to a great controversy of the time – ‘Arianism’; it was the priest Arius and his followers whose heresy denied the eternal divinity of the Son of God – ‘incarnate in the flesh and born of a woman’.
A further Council – The ‘Second Ecumenical Council’ held at Constantinople in 381 AD was called to address other heresies that had arisen against the orthodox teaching of the Church. In particular, the Council stood against a denial by some members of the church regarding the true divinity of the Holy Spirit. It was this Council that expanded the Creed with particular reference to the Holy Spirit “who proceeds from the Father” and ‘who together with the Father and Son is worshipped and glorified’.
The Nicene Creed cannot be said to contain within it detail of all the doctrines of the Church. However, it is a summary of basic beliefs that were under attack from heresies arising in the early Church. By reciting the Creed and using it as a ‘yardstick’ or a ‘rule’, it becomes both a statement of Orthodox faith and also a means of identifying fundamental false beliefs.
In its original form the Creed was in the plural – “We believe”. In this form, it expresses the common belief of the whole Church. In the services of the Orthodox Church, the Creed is recited in the singular – “I believe”, expressing the ‘orthodoxy’ of the beliefs of the individual Christian and his or her adherence to the Holy Tradition that has been handed down by Christ to his Apostles and from them to those gathered in the Councils of the Church so long ago. It is this same ‘Holy Tradition’ that has been handed on unchanged to the present day.
The Creed has a prominent place in many of the services of the Orthodox Church. It is recited in the main service of our Church, the Divine Liturgy and, importantly, is recited by the ‘catechumen’ (the candidate for Baptism), or by the Godparent before the Baptism takes place. To say the words of the Creed is to show that you hold true to the doctrines for which so many throughout the history of the Church have fought and often died to protect. To state ‘I believe …’ is to express your determination to stand against heresies of false belief that continue to attack the Church down to the present time.
‘The Nicene Creed’ contains twelve fundamental statements, essential to the Christian faith. These are:
1. The fundamental nature of God –Three distinct persons and yet one God;
2. The eternal God, the Son;
3. The true divinity of Jesus Christ;
4. The salvation of God brought through the incarnation;
5. The suffering, death and burial of Christ;
6. The Resurrection of Christ from the dead;
7. The ascension of Christ to His Father in heaven;
8. The expected return of Christ to this world;
9. The true divinity of God the Holy Spirit;
10. The nature of the Church – One, Holy and Apostolic;
11. Forgiveness of sins that comes through baptism;
12. The Resurrection of all people and eternal life.
The Church formulated the Creed to express ‘true belief’ in God in the face of ‘false beliefs’, and yet it has been this very Creed that has become a point of disagreement and a reason for division of some from that same Church that first expressed it. It was the ‘Third Ecumenical Council’ (in the city of Ephesus in 431 AD) that reaffirmed the words of the Creed and expressed them as forever ‘unchanging’ and ‘unchangeable’.
It was only a few years after this very Council of 431 AD, that some in the western Church began to insert an extra word into the Creed. In the Latin version of the Creed, the word – ‘filioque’ (‘and from the Son’) was added in the statement concerning the nature of the Holy Spirit. This small word had large consequences; it became the cause of much theological disagreement and was a major factor in the eventual separation of the Roman Church from the Orthodox in 1054 AD.
To say the Holy Spirit proceeds ‘from the Father and the Son’, is to attempt to change the very nature of God as he has revealed himself – the Orthodox belief that God is ‘three persons’ and yet ‘one God’. The addition of the ‘filioque’ is to confuse and turn upside down this revelation. This is not just an argument about words, of semantics; it comes to the very heart of who God is. It is this fundamental Christian truth that the Creed was promulgated to protect!
To this day, the Orthodox Church stands firm on the use of the Creed in its original form as declared at the first three Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church. It is interesting that some Protestant Churches have, in more recent times, expressed the Creed in its original form (without the filioque) as an alternative or ‘preferred’ form. The debate still rages between the Roman and Orthodox Churches concerning the ‘filioque’. It was this inclusion into the Creed that had so much bearing upon the eventual separation of the Roman Church 1054 AD, and, sadly, it is its continual use that proves to be such a major obstacle in any talks of reunion.”
Rev. Timothy Evangelinidis
Parish Priest of St. George – Hobart (TAS)
The Nicene Creed
I believe in one God, Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God,
begotten of the Father before all ages,
light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten not made,
of one essence with the Father;
through him all things were made.
Who for us and for our salvation
came down from heaven,
and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit
and the Virgin Mary,
and became human,
and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate,
and suffered and was buried,
and rose on the third day according to the Scriptures,
and ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father,
who together with the Father and the Son
is worshipped and glorified,
and who spoke through the Prophets.
In one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
I expect the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the age to come. Amen.
Our Father Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on your servant (name).
The Church as Koinonia (Gift and Goal) in the New Testament:
A Case Study from the Church in Corinth
Without doubt, the New Testament vision of the Church is fundamentally a gathering of believers called from above to be in communion with Christ leading them to the Father by the Holy Spirit. Far from being depicted as a merely human institution, the New Testament Church marked an entirely new reality whose nature was indeed defined not only by its communion with God but also by its communion between its members. Rooted in the solidarity that found its communion with Christ and the finality of His work, the early Christian community was not a gathering simply coming together in a casual or passing manner sharing, for example common religious ideas. Rather the Church gathered in a radically ‘new’ way transformed from being a group of detached individuals into a single harmoniously united organism. Life in the Church was now realized as communion and not autonomous self-existence. Therefore in calling themselves Church, the first Christians were expressing their belief that their coming together was the result of a concrete historical invitation given by Christ, the Son of God who, in joining Himself with humanity opened up the way for the entire world the possibility of a filial relationship with God. This paper will examine the communal mode of the Church’s existence as it is portrayed in the New Testament Church of Corinth.
Identification of Church and Koinonia
Writing to the Corinthian community, which was deeply divided, St Paul articulated his understanding of ekklesia in terms of communion (koinonia) already in the opening section of his letter:
To the Church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. (1 Cor 1:2).
That the Church’s very being was communal is evidenced by the apostle Paul’s explanation of ‘the Church of God which is at Corinth’ with the appositional explanatory clause that follows, ‘to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together….’ (1 Cor 1:2). In this case Paul’s opening greeting denotes an understanding of the Church which could be characterized as a community of saints whose holiness was manifested not individually but within a communal context – the word ‘together’ [suvn pa’sin] in this verse is significant as it points to the ecclesial community. For this reason biblical scholars noted that the word ‘holiness’ was never used in the singular for an individual person but always for the assembled people of God. Now, the reference to the faithful within the Church as ‘saints’ – a mode of existence that all Christians look towards with the Parousia of Christ – has rightly led many biblical scholars today, to the conclusion that an eschatological community was meant by the apostle Paul. Yet it has to be stated that holiness was not only a description of the future vocation of the Christian Church but signified also its present status.
The sanctity of the assembled community was not only a future hope but also a present reality within the life of the Church. In this sense, the eschatological gift of the holiness of the community, as a whole, was bestowed upon the Corinthian Church already in their historical context as a sign of God’s fidelity when they would assemble together. Incidentally, such a communal understanding of ‘holiness’ removes the term from any individual ethical goodness since, in this case, its primary meaning signified those people of God already gathered in Corinth. Already in the fourth century, St John Chrysostom, in his commentary on Corinthians also made the connection between those assembled holy people of God – i.e. the ekklesia – and koinonia when he wrote:
“…. ekklesia means assembly. It is not a name of separation but a name of unity and concord.”
And so it was only in communion with one another in the person of Jesus Christ that the faithful at Corinth were called ‘holy’ by Paul. That the koinonia, expressed by Paul for the Corinthian Church was a gift from God is evidenced in that it was God who initiated this relationship by ‘calling’ the faithful to assemble together. Therefore the communal sharing in the life of the Father through the Son was seen by Paul to be a divine and accomplished act yet, as we shall see, one which still had to be fully realised within the concrete life of the community.
Koinonia – Gift and Goal
Not only did Paul show that God’s gift of communion to the Church had been realized through his Son, but also emphasised the necessary response required by the faithful. And in so far as it required a response by the Church of Corinth, the gift of koinonia was not only a gift from God but also a postulate still to be fully realised. Having greeted his audience in the opening part of the letter, Paul offered thanks to God not only for the divine gift of grace given (δοθειση) (1 Cor 1:4) to the community thereby enriching it (επλουτισθητε) (1 Cor 1:5) so that it did not lack in anything, but also for the certitude of God’s ongoing sustenance (βεβαιωσει ) (1 Cor 1:8) regarding this gift until the end ( εβς τελουσ ). And it was God’s continual providence over the Church in Corinth that provided the opportunity for the community to respond to this gift by seeking to exist communally, that is lovingly, in their daily lives. Indeed the three key notions – i.e. the grace given, its enrichment and the certitude of God’s ongoing sustenance – are important in explaining the dynamic character of God’s communion with the Church in that they betray not only God’s intimate involvement in terms of an accomplished act but one which will continue until the Parousia. It was this continued connection of God with the Church that provided the endless opportunities for the faithful to respond to this by firstly accepting it and also assimilating to it.
Such an understanding of communion both as genuine gift yet to be fully realised is further implied in 1 Cor 1:9:
God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship (koinwnivan) of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Cor 1:9).
The identification of the Church with God’s gift of koinonia is clear from the above verse. That the above verse is addressed to the community of Christ, that is, the Church in Corinth, and not to individual Christians is evidenced by the plural form of verb for ”you were called (ejklhvqhte) in the Greek. And following on from this, it is also clear that it was because of God’s founding and continued commitment to bring his gift of communion to the Church to its perfected end that the Corinthian Church was assured of God’s communion with it. The fact that the verb ‘calling’ is in the aorist tense highlights that the gift of koinonia was already bestowed upon the Church. That is to say, the communal mode of the Church’s existence was the result of God’s effective calling in the first place since it was God who had initiated the salvific plan (divine economy) by having called the Church into communion with Him through his Son, Jesus Christ. Yet, when seen in its connection with the previous verses, this passage highlights also the community’s future communal participation in the life of God made possible by God’s Son, Jesus Christ. The consummation of the Church’s koinonia with God would be fully realized in the end times since ‘God is faithful’ (1 Cor 1:9) and therefore his word-acts would be carried through to completion. And even though God had already granted the gift of koinonia to the Church and would continue to do so until the end of time, this did not imply, in any way that the Church had to cease to make God’s promise a daily goal striving to make this koinonia more real throughout its historical life. The dialectical or paradoxical nature of the Church’s koinonia with God thereby becomes apparent.
Unlike God’s association with the people of Israel which was external, now, as the same verse goes on to explain, God’s gift of communion to the Church would be none other than God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, thereby highlighting the indwelling of Christ with the Church. According to St Paul, it was precisely this initiative of God to identify Himself entirely with the world by giving the Church a common share in His very life which required the Church’s response for its concrete realisation. Therefore what Paul thereby expressed about the nature of this gift of communion was also its eschatological dimension beyond its present reality. The profound mystery of God’s communion with His Church was a present reality – a gift – but one whose total actualisation was founded on a sure promise on the part of God and the human response. Simply put, koinonia with the Son not only had a present (an ‘already’) reality, but also an eschatological (‘not-yet’) implication. Not only was it a present reality because the call to koinonia had already begun to grow with this life, but the final consummation of it was yet to come. It is immediately striking that the Pauline understanding of communion in this case is to be understood in such a paradoxical manner, that is both as a present reality and a goal to be attained.
It is indisputable that our recourse to such an understanding of communion is firmly based on Paul”s vision of the communion of the body of faithful as both gift and task. In reconciling the world through his Son, God made possible his communion with the world. And yet, insofar as the calling of God necessitated a free response on the part of the body of faithful, God’s initial gift of communion was a goal towards which the Church would continually move to be fully realized. It follows then, that it is entirely impossible to conceive of the New Testament event of the Church apart from the experience of communion in its dynamic character.
Academic Director and Senior Lecturer in Theology,
St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College
1. 1Jn 1:3 is explicitly clear in this regard: “we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship (koinwnivan) with us; and truly our fellowship (koinwniva) is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
2. Cf Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, 11, trans. James W. Leitch (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), 23).
3. That holiness is not only an eschatological calling but a present reality is also betrayed in the tense of the verb ”kalevw” in 1 Cor 1:9. Its aorist passive indicative form signifies a past action initiated by God collectively to his people to make them a ”holy nation” which Paul understood as already having taken place in Christ. Cf Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 103.
4. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians 1.1.
5. Cf George Panikulam, Koinonia in the New Testament (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1979), 12.
The Church as Koinonia (Gift and Goal) in the New Testament:
A Case Study from the Church in Corinth
A comprehensive understanding of the communal nature of the Church in the Scriptures (and in our case, the Corinthian Church) also dictates an assessment of the Holy Spirit’s role in the constitution of the Church. The Pneumatological foundation of the Church must be seen together with the Christological since the Scriptures clearly betray real reciprocity between the Son and Spirit in the work of salvation.(1) Whilst Christ became incarnate and in this way gave the Church its ‘body’, it was the Spirit who breathed life into this body thereby ‘animating’ (i.e. giving it a spiritual or Spirit-filled existence) and preparing it for its universal mission in the world. That is to say, the Church must also be seen as a product of the Holy Spirit who constitutes it as the gathering of Jesus and leads it, in Christ, to a communion with God the Father. It is only through the Spirit that the Church can exist as the sacrament of salvation offering to the faithful a real encounter with Christ in history. As we shall see, therefore, any theology of the Church must take into account the founding roles of both Christ (which were discussed in our last issue) and the Holy Spirit from which is born the community of believers, dedicated to God in faith and discipleship.
The importance in highlighting the constitutive role of the Holy Spirit for the formation of the Church can be seen especially when the Church’s ontological structure is understood in terms of koinonia. Indeed the intense solidarity not only between the faithful of the Church and God but also between the faithful themselves, and between humanity and the whole of creation will not adequately be explained without fully appreciating the gift of the Spirit bestowed upon the Church ‘from on high’ – especially on the day of Pentecost. It becomes clear therefore that Christ’s foundational role in the establishment of the New Testament Church must be seen equally together with constitutive role of the Holy Spirit. In the words of Limouris:
While thinking of the church Christologically as the body of Christ, we need also to keep in mind another “icon” to complete and balance our ecclesiology; a pneumatological “icon” of the church as the kingdom of the Holy Spirit The Church is at the same time Pentecostal: it is an extension of the incarnation and of Pentecost.
Limouris rightly noted that whilst Christ founded the Church, it would be the Spirit’s role to make the glorified Christ present in the Church, after His ascension thereby giving it access to God the Father. Simply put, the intimate bond of communion between the church and Christ throughout the ages is made possible by the Spirit. We will see that the early Christians eschatological awareness of having received the Spirit bound them intimately together in such a way that any feeling of alienation or lack of koinonia was overcome once and for all. However, as we shall also note, the gift of koinonia bestowed upon the Church by the Holy Spirit still awaited its ultimate fulfilment with the certainty of the grace already experienced. It was this flourishing of the Spirit as both gift and goal to which the early Church appealed for its formation, consolidation and ultimate fulfilment as a communal body. It is for this reason, that in our systematic articulation of our understanding of the New Testament Church of Corinth, we must also integrate the work of the Spirit, otherwise our vision of the Church will not only be one-sided but its full reality will also be distorted.
Ekklesia: Koinonia of the Spirit
In two of his letters, St Paul spoke of the Church’s koinonia with the Spirit.(3) Appearing for the first time in his second letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 13:13) St Paul used this expression, koinonia to the ecclesial gathering which had assembled within the city of Corinth, in the final exhortation of his letter:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit [hJ koinwniva tou aJgivou pneuvmato] be with all of you. (2 Cor 13:13).
Beyond the Trinitarian structure that can be seen in this benediction, the Holy Spirit is identified as the divine Person who bestowed the gift of koinonia to the Church. Indeed, it is only against the context of St Paul’s conviction of the Church as an intimate koinonia with Christ effected by the Holy Spirit and leading the community back to the Father(4) that one can adequately explain St Paul’s cause for thanksgiving in the extremely chaotic Corinthian Church. In this sense, convinced of God’s gift of koinonia, St Paul set about to write his letter to the Corinthians so as to promote reconciliation and unity within the Church. That St Paul believed the Holy Spirit to be the basis of the Church’s koinonia is undeniable, but we will need to show in what way the communal being of the Church was seen also as the goal of the Church, one requiring a response by the faithful so that it could be fully realised within their historical context.
In order to fully appreciate the final exhortation of St Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (i.e. 2Cor 13:13), it has to be read in conjunction with a verse from the opening part of the same letter where St Paul establishes the fact that it was God who established the community in Christ and who anointed it with His Spirit and will fulfil His God-given promises to the Church:
But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first instalment (ton aOrrabwna touv pneumatos). (2 Cor 1:21-22).
If it is accepted that this verse explains 2 Cor 13:13, then it becomes clear that it was only by the continued presence of the Holy Spirit in the Corinthian church (since it was only given as a pledge at this stage) that the communal relationship established in Christ could be upheld and maintained. In this case, the communion of the Holy Spirit given as a first instalment (1 Cor 1:22) was understood to express the unwavering and continued fidelity on God’s part to be in communion with the Church in Christ. In this sense St Paul identified the Holy Spirit as both the basis and the inherent principle of growth within the Corinthian community given as a gift at baptism and awaiting its further realization. Indeed the fact that this koinonia of the Holy Spirit is given ‘as a first instalment’ in the opening of this letter naturally betrays its dynamic character, the consummation of which the Church will live only in the eschatological age by the growth caused by the Holy Spirit. St Paul undoubtedly saw the Spirit in dynamic terms, that is, not only as a given gift but also one which was further guaranteed so that God could fulfil the promise of intimate communion with Himself in the Parousia.
The notion of koinonia as both gift and goal can now be better appreciated in the concluding thanksgiving of the letter in 2 Cor 13:13. Indeed, the dynamic character of koinonia depends upon the understanding of the phrase ‘communion of the Holy Spirit’, something which has raised much discussion amongst biblical scholars throughout the centuries. The debate has centred on the type of genitive (subjective or objective) that is to be inferred from this phrase. If taken as a subjective genitive(5) the expression would lend itself to the idea of a ‘community realized or effected by the Holy Spirit’ (i.e. it is the Holy Spirit who is the subject of this communion since it is the Spirit imparting this koinonia). In this sense Paul was referring to the ecclesial koinonia created the Holy Spirit and bestowed as a gift to the Corinthian community. Understood in this way, that is, as a subjective genitive, the phrase points to the divine source of the gift of koinonia to the Corinthian community, hence highlighting the ‘gift’ aspect of koinonia.
If, on the other hand the genitive is understood in the objective sense, then the phrase would imply the dynamic response of the community to, and its participation in, the Holy Spirit . that is, the acquisition of the Holy Spirit as the object or task of life. Far from being a gift given only once to the Church, the gift of ecclesial koinonia is continually being bestowed to the Church by the Spirit and will do so since Christ has promised the Spirit’s presence in the Church guiding it into all truth until the end times:
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (Jn 16:13).
Like St Paul, the Johannine text emphasises the continued presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. And in so far as the Spirit is permanently present in the world, it requires the continued response of the faithful firstly to accept and obey it and secondly to allow it to work by not shunning it. Therefore, as an objective genitive the emphasis is on the participation of the Corinthian community to the Holy Spirit as opposed to the subjective which emphasises the source of koinonia enjoyed within the community.
Understood both as a subjective and objective genitive the expression ‘the communion of the Holy Spirit’ could signify not only the gift of fellowship created by the Spirit but also the dynamic response of the faithful to receiving this gift which they would subsequently strive to make a permanent reality in their life within an ecclesial context. Perhaps one meaning need not exclude the other since it is quite possible that both meanings were intended. The ‘communion of the Holy Spirit’ required a continued sharing in this gift of the Holy Spirit on the part of the Church. This is most clearly seen in the first council in Jerusalem whereupon the completion of its deliberations, the apostles declared: “for it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28). In this sense the Spirit was not only the basis (or gift) of the Church’s communion with Christ but the goal of the Church’s destiny which would also bring the Church to its eschatological fulfilment.
It is only in recognizing the dialectic character of koinonia that one can fully appreciate the Pauline perspective to 2 Cor 13:13. Undeniably for Paul, ‘the communion of the Holy Spirit’, as this can be evidenced in his other letters, was a divine gift, which was bestowed upon the communities creating a fellowship amongst believers(7) but it also required a reciprocating acceptance on the part of the faithful and a continued sharing in it.
The analysis of 2 Cor 13:13 therefore clearly showed that the koinonia within the community was not only a gift bestowed by the presence of the Holy Spirit but also a dynamic and activating force behind the whole movement of the Church towards God. As such the notions of an ecclesial fellowship created by the Holy Spirit together with the common participation of the faithful in the Spirit could be simultaneously present in the verse. Due to his concern for harmony within the Corinthian community Paul was thus expressing his desire that the Corinthian church continue in its common participation of the Spirit which was the goal of the original gift bestowed by the Spirit which inevitably had to continue to be deepened on a daily basis until the Parousia.
Academic Director and Senior Lecturer in Theology,
St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College
1 The New Testament, for example describes the constitutive role of the Holy Spirit in the conception of Christ (Luke), His baptism (Mark) and resurrection (Rom 1:4; 8:11). And in John, the Holy Spirit is given not only to Christ “without measure” (Jn 3:34) but also to the faithful enabling them to become sons and daughters by fellowship with Jesus Christ (Rom 5:15; 6:3-5).
2 Gennadios Limouris, ‘The Church as Mystery and Sign in Relation to the Holy Trinity . Ecclesiological Perspectives’, in Church-Kingdom-World: The Church as Mystery and Prophetic Sign, Faith and Order Paper no. 130, ed. Gennadios Limouris (Geneva: WCC, 1986), 29.
3 The expression ‘communion of the (Holy) Spirit’ can be found in 2 Cor 13:13 and Phil 2:1.
4 Note the similarities with the opening section of the same letter in 2 Cor 1:21-22 which brings out the aim of the letter.
5 Those who argue for a subjective genitive do so in order to uphold the same construction in the three expressions found in 2 Cor 13:13. ‘the grace of Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit’.
6 Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Church in the New Testament, Trans W.J. O’Hara (London: Burns & Oates, 1974), 123-125 and 158-164.
7 In relating the results of justification, Paul, in Rom 5:1-11 referred to God’s love which had been given to the church not only in Christ’s death and resurrection but also through the Holy Spirit. In this pericope, both Christ and the Holy Spirit are depicted as working to bestow the love of God to the faithful . Christ restoring our relationship to God and the Holy Spirit pouring the love of God into the hearts of believers.
8 Evidence of the Holy Spirit’s continued presence in the church is reflected in its work a) to safeguard the community against all falsehood (2Cor 6:11-18), b) to vivify the community (1Pt 2:5) and c) to bestow its charisms (1Cor 14:1). In all this there is a movement towards God and towards one’s neighbour whereby Christians come into fellowship with God and with one another.
The notion of koinonia (communion) in Orthodox Ecclesiology seen within the dialectic of foundation and goalms-e
Church as Communion
The notion of koinonia (communion) in contemporary ecclesiological discussions by both Eastern and Western Churches has proven extremely useful as a model for understanding the nature and function of the Church.1 The success of the notion of communion today lies both in its ability to express the very mode of the Church’s existence whilst still being deeply rooted in both the Biblical and Patristic traditions. Far from being derived from any sociological, political or ethical understanding, which usually espouses a ‘tolerance’ of difference in the name of some form of exterior social cohesion and unanimity, communion is a theological term bearing a specific meaning about God’s a priori relational way of existence. Whilst secular communities are usually understood as bodies of people forming political or social unities for utilitarian aims so that they can live together for their advancement, the notion of communion within the Church expresses its very mode of existence and function beyond any ideological principles or structures.
Since the Scriptures assert that the Church is “the Church of God”2, this implies that the Church’s quintessential nature must fundamentally reflect God after whose image it is. And since the Christian tradition would claim that the very being of God is a communion of three hypostases relating to one another in an interpenetrating communion of infinite love, then the Church’s very being must express this communal reality. It is for this reason that many theologians of the Christian tradition have expressed the very nature of the Church in terms of communion. For example quite some time ago Archbishop Stylianos offered a wonderfully comprehensive definition of the Church as a
“communion in grace of created and uncreated, for the salvation of the created and the glorification of the uncreated.”3
Therefore the Church must be perceived as that reality where the entire world’s eternal eschatological destiny, which is communion in God’s very life, is ultimately realised. This rather basic yet essential truth of the Church’s being as communion can already been deduced from the very term “ecclesia” that was chosen by the first Christian communities to express their identity. Etymologically speaking, the word “ecclesia” (from the Greek verb “to call out”) primarily means a gathering, an assembly or a foundational event of communion before and beyond any other meaning.4 It is for this reason that the notion of communion is a determinative factor of the very mode of the truth of the Church’s very existence. This leads to an understanding of the Church’s communion as a foundational gift or postulate bestowed from above to the world. Already from the above, we could go so far as to say that the very being of the Church experienced as communion could be considered as a foundational ecclesiological article of faith.
Communion as Foundational Gift
Now, being a gift from God, the truth of the Church’s intimate communion with God is that gift which safeguards the Church from all error and enables it to rightly proclaim the word of truth.5 Assured of this gift of communion culminating in the historical Jesus Christ, the Church has been established, within history as the ark of salvation which is nothing other than the world’s life in God. Furthermore it is that existential reality which represents the unique potential of salvation from alienation and people’s struggle for mere survival in their loneliness. This presupposition of communion enables the Church to be the unique means of radical transformation from an “individually-centred” culture of worldly success imposed upon society by consumerism to one of where the person is defined principally in terms of this existential event of communion. In the Church, the entire world can share in God’s communal mode of existence, which includes freedom – that is being free from the bounds of death; love – that is ceasing to draw our existence from our individuality which is corrupt and mortal; but instead seeking the freedom of personal relationships – a life as a communion of love.
The Church has always existed to offer this communion of love to the entire world. In fact, the Orthodox tradition would claim that it was for this purpose that God created the world – that is to realise a most intimate communion of love between the world and Himself. Since the Church, in its essence is God’s gift of communion to the world – the solution par excellence to the impasse of isolationism – it exists from the very moment that God decides to communicate with the world when He creates it out of nothing. It is for this reason that we can speak of the Church as preceding the creation of the world, since it was part of God’s eternal plan to communicate with his creation. For this reason, Bulgakov, in line with many Fathers of the early Church can write that
“the Church [is] the pre-eternal purpose and the foundation of creation.”6
Therefore seeing that the Church is this communal event par excellence between God and the world, it would be more correct to speak in terms of the world today in the Church rather than the Church in the world. Such a statement which may seem daring at
first expresses nothing other than God’s desire, arising out of His absolute love, to share with the creation those things that are His – life, love and even divinity through Himself, that is through His Church.
Recognition of the Dialectic
Thus far there is nothing new in our enquiry, as many theologians of both East and West have spoken of the Church in terms of God’s gift of communion to the world. Taking this as their starting point many theologians therefore have been able to articulate a systematic study of the nature and function of the Church in terms of communion. However, more often than not this has been done without taking seriously how this gift of communion really functions in the Church’s concrete historical reality. It is for this reason that others have reacted to what they call a purely speculative ecclesiology pointing out that it has nothing to do with the historical life of the Church in reality. So, in their quest for a corrective, they have been able to highlight the fragility of the Church within the fallen world along with its ceaseless temptations, divisions and even sins in history. Yet more often than not these studies have ended up being nothing other than sociological studies of the Church since they have not been able to distinguish between, nor acknowledge what could be called a “theological ecclesiology” and an “empirical ecclesiology”7. It must be admitted that any theology of the Church without taking seriously its place in history can lead to forms of idealism whilst any ecclesiological exposition denying the reality of God’s intimate fellowship with the world is equally extreme and therefore both positions are to be avoided.
An examination of the boundaries and relationship between these two realities is one of the most relevant problems facing the Church today, which has to do with a realistic interpretation of history beyond any idealism. The Church’s sacredness and effectiveness is at stake if no theological explanation can be given to this. However no detailed and systematic study has been made, so far which has taken seriously this fundamental paradox between the simultaneity of communion as both foundational gift and goal. It is hoped that a viable contribution into the nature of the Church as communion will be made taking seriously the reality of the Church in the world as a gift from God, and yet one still to be fully realised. Concerned with preserving alive a Christian realism, which alone can be a compassionate and consoling affirmation of life in all its abundance, this brief study will now endeavour to situate the being of the Church within the principle of communion whilst still recognising the dialectic between the communion both as a foundational gift or postulate and a goal yet to be fully realised.
Theological Explanation of the Dialectic
Therefore reflecting critically upon the reality of the Church as communion we are led to a double condition of the Church – communion must not only be seen as a foundational gift in ecclesiology but also as a goal yet to be attained. In other words the Church exists at once in two complementary levels and the relationship between these two levels is the ultimate crux of our enquiry. Using the well known phrases of St Augustine, we can quite easily conclude that the Church is at once in statu viae and in statu viatorae.8 As a communion of believers the Church is a historic community affected by the changes of this world but at the same time a glorious community with the Lord. The Church’s communion is simultaneously given from above as a gift but also is a goal for which the entire created world hopes in anticipation.
This theandric and mysterious nature of communion both as gift and goal can be explained theologically in the categories of the Chalcedonian formula. We are faced with the same creative tension or paradox even if only by means of analogy. One can easily discern the Church’s frailty and shortcomings but beyond this existential phenomenon of the Church we behold it as a “new creation” as the abiding presence of Christ through the Spirit since all “is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). This double dimension of the Church is at once united “unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably”9 On the historic level the final goal of communion has not yet been attained. But the eschatological reality has already been granted here and now as a foretaste of the ultimate glory. Therefore the Church’s communal mode of being is not exhausted by the gift that it has received with the creation of the world and Christ’s intervention in history. Rather the fullness of communion is derived from the future.
It is the contention of this brief study that the Church’s being can be identified as communion in the world because it is Christ’s promise of the Church’s future glory, which is the determinative factor of the Church’s past and present. It is not the past, which determines the future but it is the future, which shapes history. It is the sacramental nature of the Church, which allows the anticipation of the eschata already from the present. In particular it is in the Eucharist that the Church now lives the communion hoped for in God in the end times since it is the Eucharist which reveals the Body of the God-Man as the way in which the entire world can now be embodied into the one Christ. As paradoxical as it may sound the reality of the Church’s communion is not determined only by what was granted to it with the Incarnation and the Spirit’s outpouring gift of this communion on Pentecost, but by that future promise and consummation of communion and unity between Creator and created in the age to come.
In other words, the Church being as communion is ultimately found in the future Kingdom of God. From this, the eschatological nature of the Church can be appreciated as that which bursts into history making a reality the recapitulation and unity of the entire world with God. Seen in this light, we will be able to transcend any problems of the past which either saw the Church’s communion only as something which could be hoped for in the age to come or a reality entirely identified within history as a given. Rather we can appreciate the existential event of communion taking into account the vision and potential of the endless possibilities hidden within the Church of what it will be as promised by Christ.
From the above analysis we were able to show that the Church’s communion must be seen both as a gift and goal. This was nothing other than situating the existential event of the Church’s communion within the parameter of mysterious boundaries of the interpenetration between the Church’s divine and human life. As such we were able to show that while the Church exists in the fallen world yet it still has the transformative power of offering the fallen world a sanctified mode of existence based on God’s communal mode of being. The historical life of the Church therefore must be understood within the dialectic of a dynamic movement within the two boundaries of these two modes of existence – a Church in the world yet a transformed Church experience already here and now as a foretaste of its future glory.
Academic Director and Senior Lecturer in Theology,
St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College
1. In fact this term has been able to integrate different ecclesiological perspectives in both multi-lateral and bi-lateral Ecumenical dialogues.
2. Cf Acts 20:28; 1 Cor 1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:13.
3. Archbishop Stylianos (Harkianakis) of Australia, ‘The Kenotic Character of Theology as Ultimate Glorification of God and Man’, Phronema 2(1987): 4 and also 13.
4. This is clearly evidenced in St Cyril of Jerusalem, Cathechesis 24. PG 33.1044. “It is named ‘Church’ because, as the word itself shows, it gathers all human beings into one meeting place.” “Tov gavr th’” ejkklhsiva” o[noma ouj cwrismou’, ajllav eJnwvsew” ejsti kaiv sumfwniva” o[noma…”
5. Cf. Stylianos Harkianakis, The Infallibility of the Church, [in Greek], (Athens, 1965): 14.
6. S. Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church, (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 1988): 6. This follows St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians which states that the world was chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” (Eph. 1:4).
7. First coined by Archbishop Stylianos (Harkianakis) of Australia in a series of lectures on ecclesiology delivered at St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College, Sydney.
8. St Augustine, In Evangel. Joannis tract., 124,5, PL, 35.1044.
9. Well known Chalcedonian formula used to describe the two natures of Christ united in his one person.