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OCA Clergy on Mount Athos


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#1 John W.

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 04:44 PM

I remember hearing/reading many years ago that OCA clergy were forbidden by the Ecumenical Patriarch to concelebrate on Mount Athos.

True? False? Or just another senior moment for JohnW?

#2 Eric Peterson

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 07:38 PM

That would be strange, since the OCA and EP are in communion.

#3 Ryan

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 07:53 PM

If it's true, it might be because EP doesn't recognize OCA's autocephaly.

#4 Father David Moser

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 07:58 PM

If it's true, it might be because EP doesn't recognize OCA's autocephaly.


This is the core issue. In the past, as I have been told, OCA clergy could not concelebrate on the Holy Mountain because the EP did not recognize the OCA's autocephaly. This is, however, not a static situation and so may well have changed in the past few years. So, it used to be true, but the current situation may be different.

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#5 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 08:21 PM

If it's true, it might be because EP doesn't recognize OCA's autocephaly.


Doesn't the EP just consider the OCA still part of the Russian Church? Then there wouldn't be a problem, I would think.

Sbdn. Anthony

#6 Father David Moser

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 08:37 PM

Doesn't the EP just consider the OCA still part of the Russian Church? Then there wouldn't be a problem, I would think.


I think that if the OCA would agree that it is "a part of the Russian Church" then perhaps it would be a non-issue. But the OCA maintains that it is not a part of the Russian Church and therefore since they are not part of a recognized (by the EP) jurisdiction they then cannot concelebrate (I think the easy intercommunion in the US between the EP and the OCA is an anomaly).

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#7 Christophoros

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 08:38 PM

In the early 1990's, when the OCA was mounting attacks on the legitimacy of the ROCOR, a lay member of the Russian Synod wrote a letter to the abbot of Philotheou Monastery asking for a clarification of the status of the ROCOR and the OCA on the Holy Mountain. A scanned copy was published in Orthodox Tradition (I have a copy, I will try to locate it). The abbot stated the OCA was not allowed to concelebrate on the Holy Mountain; I don't recall the exact reason, but I believe it was in protest of their autocephalous status.

#8 Ryan

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 08:43 PM

Interestingly, a GOA church I attended had a Romanian priest from the OCA serving alongside the Greek protopresbyter every Sunday.

#9 Eric Peterson

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 05:07 AM

If true, this would be one more thing in a long list of regretable decisions.

#10 Christophoros

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 07:37 PM

I located the letter from Archimandrite Theophanis, abbot of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos, which was published in Vol. IX, Nos. 2 & 3 of Orthodox Tradition. Most of the letter concerns the question of recognition of the ROCOR on the Holy Mountain, which was prompted when the OCA gleefully (and inaccurately) issued a press release on October 31, 1991, proclaiming that all of Mount Athos condemned the ROCOR as "schismatic" and "deprived of divine grace."

The final paragraph states the following:

"As far as the 'autocephaly' of the OCA is concerned, since it was not issued by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as only the Ecumenical Patriarchate possesses the right to issue a tome of autocephaly, or at least recognized officially by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, it's autocephaly is unsubstantial. The answer to your last question is no, for the aforementioned reasons the clergy of the OCA may not serve in any of the monasteries on Mount Athos, nor may any partake in Holy Communion."

#11 Robert Hegwood

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 08:46 PM

Is this still the case? Are OCA clergy still barred from concelebration and communion on the Holy Mountain. I wonder because I know of more than one OCA priest who have visited and made connections there?

#12 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 09:16 PM

...and there have been more than a few OCA laymen that have received Communion on the Holy Mountain.

Honestly, it's a contest between Moscow and Constantinople. Moscow claims it has the right to grant autocephaly since the OCA is the descendant of it's mission in North America. Constantinople claims that it alone has the authority to grant autocephaly. Each side has canon experts claiming it to be right.

Realistically, the situation that the Phanar finds itself in in Turkey is pretty miserable. They would likely collapse if it wasn't for the funds and political support from the GOA in the US. Now, if Constantinople accepts the OCA's autocephaly in North America, then they have no real argument for maintaining a separate jurisdiction with all it's money and political clout. Quite wisely, they don't want to lose their "lifeline", so therefore the must officially oppose the OCA's autocephaly.

It's essentially an argument that must be maintained to preserve things from collapsing under the weight of persecution. No one in the OCA is seriously annoyed by Constantinople's refusal to recognize our autocephaly, nor is anyone I know in the GOA seriously affronted by our claims of it.

It's a survival technique that is getting misunderstood. That's all.

#13 Moses Ibrahim

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 03:32 AM

So sad... can't we show love to one another; even to forbid Holy Communion? How is it justified to forbid the Body and Blood of Christ to Orthodox Christians so staunchly and for such an illogical reason? In my opinion this is disastrous. Did Christ forbid even the Canaanite woman? How much more detrimental is it when we forbid our own brethren from the Lord Himself? I don't know how this has lasted so long, but I certainly cannot see anything but hatred by this, especially since Saints Paul and Peter speak against divisions of the Church. Remind me again why Mount Athos is the "center" of Orthodoxy? Shame on us.

1 Corinthians 1:10; Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

and again...

1 Peter 3:8; Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.

OCA clergy who serve and participate in the liturgical cycle of services, who distribute the Lord's Body and Blood to Orthodox Christians are they themselves forbidden from partaking of Him? How legalistic does this sound?

"As far as the 'autocephaly' of the OCA is concerned, since it was not issued by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as only the Ecumenical Patriarchate possesses the right to issue a tome of autocephaly, or at least recognized officially by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, it's autocephaly is unsubstantial. The answer to your last question is no, for the aforementioned reasons the clergy of the OCA may not serve in any of the monasteries on Mount Athos, nor may any partake in Holy Communion."

(we seem to be kings alongside the Catholic Church in regards to legalism and pharasiam)

#14 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 04:35 AM

I think that was my whole point Moses Ibrahim. There is no justification for forbidding OCA priestmonks to serve, or laymen the mysteries, just on the basis of them being OCA.

I suspect that the refusal to acknowledge autocephaly has been misinterpreted by some in a rather overzealous way. Just because Constantinople doesn't recognise the OCA's autocephaly does not mean that we are not in communion with each other! We most definitely are! Even if a few curmudgeons on Mt Athos don't perceive the finer point.

It's a bun fight over who has the proper authority to grant autocephaly, not whether the OCA is really Orthodox or not.

The only Greeks who would say that the OCA isn't really Orthodox are the Old Calendarist groups who think everyone but themselves is devoid of grace - which, interestingly, would also include the Patriarch of Constantinople!

#15 Moses Ibrahim

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 08:42 PM

I think that was my whole point Moses Ibrahim. There is no justification for forbidding OCA priestmonks to serve, or laymen the mysteries, just on the basis of them being OCA.

I suspect that the refusal to acknowledge autocephaly has been misinterpreted by some in a rather overzealous way. Just because Constantinople doesn't recognise the OCA's autocephaly does not mean that we are not in communion with each other! We most definitely are! Even if a few curmudgeons on Mt Athos don't perceive the finer point.

It's a bun fight over who has the proper authority to grant autocephaly, not whether the OCA is really Orthodox or not.

The only Greeks who would say that the OCA isn't really Orthodox are the Old Calendarist groups who think everyone but themselves is devoid of grace - which, interestingly, would also include the Patriarch of Constantinople!


Yes I totally understand what you are saying and that the OCA is in Communion with other Orthodox Churches, but nonetheless if an OCA Clergyman/layman was to visit the Holy Mountain he would not be allowed Communion. I remember reading something to the effect of "those who forbid others Holy Communion for no good reason commit spiritual murder" [I will try to find the source, but its somewhere in that red exomologetarian book] (If I were an OCA clergyman I would choose Holy Communion at a torn down mission in the middle of a winter storm back home then step foot on the mountain only to be denied our Lord) My whole point was just to draw awareness at how ludicrous the situation is and how detrimental it is, yet its amazing how people are not bothered by the fact that Forbidding Holy Communion is being used as a "punishing whip" to OCA'ers. Mindboggling that's all. I can understand not giving the OCA money, forbidding them books or resources should they need it only to grow the EP (which still is un-Christian), but Holy Communion itself? Wow.

#16 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 12:51 AM

But, regardless of what some of these "self-appointed" representantives of the Holy Mountain are saying, Communion is NOT being denied to OCA visitors. Maybe it is being denied is some of the more "redneck-ish" communities of the Holy Mountain, but it is not the general policy being followed by all, or even most, communities there.

Someone is trying to *create* a controversy where there is none.

#17 Moses Ibrahim

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 12:54 AM

But, regardless of what some of these "self-appointed" representantives of the Holy Mountain are saying, Communion is NOT being denied to OCA visitors. Maybe it is being denied is some of the more "redneck-ish" communities of the Holy Mountain, but it is not the general policy being followed by all, or even most, communities there.

Someone is trying to *create* a controversy where there is none.


I sure hope you are right. :)

#18 Father David Moser

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 04:06 AM

But, regardless of what some of these "self-appointed" representantives of the Holy Mountain are saying, Communion is NOT being denied to OCA visitors. Maybe it is being denied is some of the more "redneck-ish" communities of the Holy Mountain, but it is not the general policy being followed by all, or even most, communities there.

Someone is trying to *create* a controversy where there is none.


I suspect that the confusion lies in equating concelebration ov clergy with communion.
This has often occurred in the past by those who do not necessarily understand the shades of difference in Church discipline. Most recently in this country there has been the case of a prohibition of concelebration between ROCOR and most other new calendar churches (this is no longer the case since the reconciliation with the MP) however, that prohibition of concelebration has often been understood as a prohibition on intercommunion which was never the case. Very possibly that same misunderstanding is what has occurred in this discussion.

Fr David Moser

#19 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 03:10 PM

Or to take one more 'shade of difference'. Sometimes the faithful are discouraged from communing in another jurisdiction even though that jurisdiction is recognized as being Orthodox.

In Orthodoxy shades of disagreement can at times lead to shades of difference.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#20 John W.

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 04:43 PM

I suspect that the confusion lies in equating concelebration ov clergy with communion.This has often occurred in the past by those who do not necessarily understand the shades of difference in Church discipline. Most recently in this country there has been the case of a prohibition of concelebration between ROCOR and most other new calendar churches (this is no longer the case since the reconciliation with the MP) however, that prohibition of concelebration has often been understood as a prohibition on intercommunion which was never the case. Very possibly that same misunderstanding is what has occurred in this discussion.

Fr David Moser


Thank you Father David for bringing this discussion back to my original query.

I didn't broach the subject of whether the OCA faithful are in communion with Mount Athos (They are, of course!), only the subject of whether the clergy of the OCA are allowed to serve on the Holy Mountain.




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