Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

On Cabbages and Kings…

tea party

The Orthodox Church is the true Church in which the Holy Tradition and the fullness of God’s saving grace are preserved intact. She has preserved the heritage of the Apostles and Holy Fathers in its integrity and purity. She is aware that her teaching, liturgical structures, and spiritual practice are the same as those of the apostolic proclamation and the Tradition of the Early Church.
Archpastoral Council of the Patriarchate of Moscow and all the Russias, 2000

The recent Nashotah House débâcle has reopened the topic of proper relations between us in the Church and the heterodox. There appear to be two contending opinions current… unfortunately, both are WRONG and contrary to the Church tradition. Firstly, one sees some say, “We have to reach out to these people and dialogue with them, so as to bring them into the Church”. This is not as dangerous as the second proposition, “We cannot have any relations with the heterodox, for they are outside of the Church”. The first is obviously wrong-headed, for it has NEVER worked, save in situations where both parties compromise on major points… and it never lasts… for no one wishes to compromise on important points of ideology or doctrine. For instance, the Papists are never going to abandon Papal Supremacy… they are willing to let go of Papal Infallibility (as it only dates from the First Vatican “Council” of 1869-70), but, they shall never compromise on the issue of the so-called Petrine Supremacy (the doctrine that the Roman Church is superior to all others and has an immediate jurisdiction over them all). Likewise, Anglicans are never going to abandon “comprehensiveness”, the 39 Articles, and the quasi-Calvinist theology (the theology of Jean Calvin was condemned at the Council of Jerusalem in 1672) embodied in those Articles… if they did, they would cease to be Anglicans… and THAT is NOT going to happen.

The second allegation is more mischievous (it is downright wicked and evil, in my view) and it has caused more upset and trouble in the Church than the first one has, for the first is so obviously and derisively misguided, injudicious, and mistaken. What DOES the Church teach on this? WHAT DO WE DO? Do we lock the door and bar the gate? Do we lock the door, but, keep the gate open? Do we open the gate and door, but, keep a part of the house private, “for family use only?” Without a doubt, most would argue that the last is the proper course. One of the best sources is Fr Alexander Lebedeff. Here is a URL to an article of his on the topic:

http://rocorunity.blogspot.com/2009/02/mitred-priest-alexander-lebedeff-on-mp.html

Another must read is:

http://journal.orthodoxtheologicalschool.org/GansonV_ROCOR_World_Orthodoxy.html

Fr Alexander, in some of his other writings, makes it clear that there has always been interaction between the Church and those outside of Her. In one article, he mentions the fact the local papist bishop and some of his clergy were invited to the consecration of the main church at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville NY, and that they were given seats of honour in front of the iconostas (as is right and proper, I say). In an internet post, he observed with obvious approval that the calendar issued by Holy Trinity Monastery in 1948 (I stand under correction as to the exact date… I am relying on my leaky memory) noted Protestant and papist holidays. In addition, he defended the listing of the hierarchs of the Metropolia and Paris Russians in this publication. Hmm… as Fr Alexander is a semi-official source of high reliability and standing, this must mean that the second proposition is dead in the water, I would say that it expired even before it reached the starting-post!

So, what does this mean for us, in practical and workaday terms? Chukcha says, “All are welcome in yaranga… however… not all are part of family of Chukcha”. Isn’t it simple, truly? Our Lord Christ told us what to do! Do unto others as you would wish them to do unto you. So, you make people welcome (sincerely and without guile) and give them open-handed and openhearted hospitality and courtesy… no matter if they are in the Church or outside Her. Certainly, you do NOT proselytise and hector the heterodox, for that is not only wrong (it is one of the most improper things that one can do, in my estimation), it is inherently disrespectful and impertinent. Those outside the Body of Christ are what they are. They are not to be hated or attacked… but, gad sir, they ain’t Orthodox! THAT is why any proposed Anglican Unia in the OCA would destabilise the whole magillah (that is why I hope that saner heads prevail and that this abomination never materialises… God grant that, please!).

We can sit down like civil and polite human-beings and “speak of cabbages and kings”… we can discuss the art of Dalí, the merits of Kentucky vs North Carolina vs Texas ‘que, the music of Prokof’ev, the food and service at Le Bernardin, the glories of the scenery in the Berkshires, whether the pastrami sandwiches are best at Sarge’s or Katz’s (or Harold’s across the river in Edison… and all agree that the only place to get REAL Jewish rye is Orwasher’s on 78th and First… oh, the AROMA of freshly-baked bread!), the antics of the rector’s grandchildren, and the joys and sorrows of everyday life… there is much that we can share as considerate (but, also, straightforward) people. BUT… this is NOT “ecumenical dialogue”… we should never engage in such foolish and irresponsible behaviour. Certainly, we shouldn’t pose for publicity snaps… now, THAT was foolish (JP should have dressed in a riassa with no pectoral cross or icon and wearing one of those simple soft monastic caps if he were to be photographed… that would be a signal to all Orthodox that this was all very unofficial and without sanction by the larger Church). We should follow the advice of one of the Ecumenical Patriarchs in a letter of his to the Lutheran theologians of Tübingen in the 17th century:

Send us no more letters concerning doctrine. Send us letters of friendship, only.

Now, that’s the Orthodox Way! Amen!

img_0001Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Albany NY

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