Orthodox unity organization of Eastern & Oriental Orthodox
Posted 08 February 2003 - 07:38 PM
I encourage everyone to visit that site. My question is, how does everyone feel about the possible reunification between the Eastern and Oriental(Copts, Armenians, Ethiopians, etc)? Is this the result of a God's will or modern man's desire to get along with everyone at the cost of the truth?
Posted 08 February 2003 - 08:17 PM
Posted 08 February 2003 - 08:23 PM
Posted 08 February 2003 - 08:50 PM
Posted 08 February 2003 - 09:28 PM
The question of unity has to do with whether two churches are really the same church. The Orientals don't have to have formally accepted conciliar decisions to be teaching the truth, especially if they had not been invited to the councils and cannot be expected to know what was decided in them. Also to be considered regarding Councils is their political motivation. We as "A nation of preists" are above the nations of the world and how they operate --- the sooner we live accordingly, the better we will all be.
Most important of all is to keep talking with one another, and not lose the medicine given us.
Oh, and about those American Jurisdictions, one of them is the first to have arived and the canons state that that one is the one all the rest are to join. Providing that the first remains Orthodox even now. I think all the attachments "back home" in the old country are afraid they'll lose American financial support.
It seems to me that it would be a fairly easy matter for the jurisdictions to find the one who was here first, make a formal decision that thereby comprised American Orthodox Church send support to all their "mothers" back "home".
All that ought to be easy for the Church motivated by Love.
Posted 08 February 2003 - 10:35 PM
Posted 08 February 2003 - 10:46 PM
Fr. Matthias F. Wahba
St. Antonius Coptic Orthodox Church
The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, in which I am a priest, is one of
the Oriental Orthodox Churches. These churches are the Coptic, Armenian,
Syrian, Ethiopian, and the Malankara Indian Churches. The common element
among them is their non-acceptance of the Council of Chalcedon of AD
451. Accordingly they prefer to be called "Non-Chalcedonian Orthodox
The Council of Chalcedon caused a big schism within the church which lasted
until the present. In addition, after the Arab invasion in the seventh
century, the churches lost communication with each other. Through this long
period, the non-Chalcedonians were accused of Eutychianism, and called
"Monophysites", meaning that they believe in one single nature of our Lord
Jesus Christ. They never accepted this idea considering it a heresy. The
purpose of this paper is to reconsider the issue.
Several publications reflect such an attitude. In The Oxford Dictionary of
Byzantium, for instance, Alexander Kazhdan shows monophysitism as a
"religious movement that originated in the first half of the 5th C. as a
reaction against the emphasis of Nestorianism on the human nature of the
incarnate Christ." The Encyclopedia of the Early Church caries an entry on
"monophysitism" where Manlio Simonetti writes, "The term monophysites
indicates those who admitted a single nature in Christ, rather than two,
human and divine, as the Council of Chalcedon (451) sanctioned." Then he
gives examples of Apollinarius and Eutyches, and goes on to mention St. Cyril
the Great as having a "Monophysite Christology". Furthermore, in the Coptic
Encyclopedia, W.H.C. Frend defines monophystism as a doctrine:
opposed to the orthodox doctrine that He (Christ) is one person
and has two natures..... The monophysites hold.... that the two
natures of Christ were united at the Incarnation in such a way
that the one Christ was essentially divine although He assumed
from the Virgin Theotokos the flesh and attributes of man.
Now, what is the actual belief of the Church of Alexandria and the other
non-Chalcedonian Orthodox Churches on the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ?
In May 1973 H.H. Pope-Shenouda III of Alexandria visited H.H. Pope Paul VI of
Rome. Their Common Declaration says:
We confess that our Lord and God and Savior and King of us all,
Jesus Christ, is perfect God with respect to His divinity,
perfect man with respect to His humanity. In Him His divinity
is united with His humanity in a real, perfect union without
mingling, without commixtion, without confusion, without
alteration, without division, without separation.
After fifteen centuries, the two prelates declare a common faith in the
nature of Christ, the issue which caused the schism of the church in the
Council of Chalcedon. This will lead us to throw some light on that council.
Monophysitism and the Council of Chalcedon
1- According to some Scholars, there, was no need for it, but politics played
a big role. "It was only under constant pressure from the Emperor Marcian
that the Fathers of Chalcedon agreed to draw a new formula of belief."
2- The different expressions of the one faith are due in large part to
non-theological issues, such as "unfortunate circumstances, cultural
differences and the difficulty of translating terms." It is debated whether
the opposition to Chalcedon was out of a Christological issue or an attempt
to assert Coptic and Syrian identity against the Byzantine.
3- Ecclesiastical politics had been very confused ever since the legislation,
in the Council of 381, of a primacy of honor for Constantinople, the New
Rome," second only to that of the old Rome. It seems that both Rome and the
Emperors used the Council of Chalcedon to carry out their respective plans:
Rome for asserting its claim for primacy over the Church and the Emperors for
trying to bring the entire Church in the East under the jurisdiction of the
See of Constantinople.
4- No one can deny the disadvantages of the imperial interventions in the
dispute. Most probably, Chalcedon's decisions and terms would have been
different if the Emperor Marcian and his wife Pulcheria had not intervened.
Since 450, they were gathering signatures for the Tome of Leo, the bishop of
Rome. Many bishops of Chalcedon approved it only as a concession to the
bishop whom the imperial authority supported.
5- The definitions of the Tome were composed in a way that it could be
interpreted by different persons, each in his own way. It is known that
Nestorius, who was still alive in 451, accepted the Tome of Leo, while the
Alexandrines rejected it.
6- The Council of Chalcedon, which is believed to have condemned Eutyches,
did not deal with him but with Dioscorus, Patriarch of Alexandria. Eutyches
himself was not present at the council. Scholars state that Dioscorus was
deprived of office on procedural grounds and not on account of erroneous
belief. At Chalcedon Dioscorus strongly declared, "If Eutyches holds notions
disallowed by the doctrines of the Church, he deserves not only punishment
but even the fire. But my concern is for the catholic and apostolic faith,
not for any man whomsoever." The evidence is sufficient for us to look for
other reasons for his condemnation. Rome was annoyed by the extraordinary
vitality and activity of the Church of Alexandria and its patriarch.
7- As soon as the members of the council had assembled, the legates of Rome
demanded that Dioscorus be banished on account of the order of the bishop of
Rome whom they called, "the head of all churches". When the imperial
authorities asked for a charge to justify the demand, one of the legates said
that he "dared to conduct a council without the authorization of the
apostolic see, a thing which has never happened and which ought not to
happen." As a matter of fact, the Council of 381 had been held without the
participation, not to say the authorization, of the bishop of Rome, and the
Council of 553 against his wishes. It is evident that the delegates intended
by the words, "the head of all churches" to assert the claim of Rome of
ecumenical supremacy over the church.
8- Chalcedon rejected the Council of 449, and Leo of Rome considered it as
latrocinium, a council of robbers, a title which "has stuck for all time."
This may uncover the intention behind such an attitude. A council which
ignored Rome's authority, robbing its claim of supremacy, was not for Leo a
church council but a meeting of robbers. The Council of Chalcedon, without
even examining the issue, denounced the Council of 449, putting the entire
responsibility for its decrees exclusively on Dioscorus. Only one hundred and
four years later, the decision, not of Chalcedon, but of the so called
latrocinium was justified. The Council of Constantinople in 553 anathematized
Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus, and Ibas of Edessa, and condemned
their Three Chapters. It is remarkable that the desire of the Emperor
Justinian to reconcile the non-Chalcedonian churches was behind the decree.
Two Different Traditions
Dioscorus, then, was not a heretic. The majority of the bishops who attended
the Council of Chalcedon, as scholars indicate, believed that the traditional
formula of faith received from St. Athanasius was the "one nature of the Word
of God." This belief is totally different from the Eutychian concept of the
single nature (i.e. Monophysite). The Alexandrian theology was by no means
docetic. Neither was it Apollinarian, as stated clearly. It seems that the
main problem of the Christological formula was the divergent interpretation
of the issue between the Alexandrian and the Antiochian theology. While
Antioch formulated its Christology against Apollinarius and Eutyches,
Alexandria did against Arius and Nestorius. At Chalcedon, Dioscorus refused
to affirm the "in two natures" and insisted on the "from two natures."
Evidently the two conflicting traditions had not discovered an agreed
theological standpoint between them.
The Church of Alexandria considered as central the Christological mia physis
formula of St. Cyril one incarnate nature of God the Word". The Cyrillian
formula was accepted by the Council of Ephesus in 431. It was neither
nullified by the Reunion of 433, nor condemned at Chalcedon. On the contrary,
it continued to be considered an orthodox formula. Now what do the
non-Chalcedonians mean by the mia physis, the "one incarnate nature?". They
mean by mia one, but not "single one" or "simple numerical one," as some
scholars believe. There is a slight difference between mono and mia. While
the former suggests one single (divine) nature, the latter refers to one
composite and united nature, as reflected by the Cyrillian formula. St. Cyril
maintained that the relationship between the divine and the human in Christ,
as Meyendorff puts it, "does not consist of a simple cooperation, or even
interpenetration, but of a union; the incarnate Word is one, and there could
be no duplication of the personality of the one redeemer God and man."
Mia Physis and Soteriology
"The Alexandrian Christology", writes Frances Young, "is a remarkably clear
and consistent construction, especially when viewed within its soteriological
context. Mia physis, for the Alexandrians, is. essential for salvation. The
Lord is crucified, even though His divinity did not suffer but His humanity
did. The sacrifice of the Cross is attributed to the Incarnate Son of God,
and thus has the power of salvation.
It is evident that both the Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians agree on the
1- They all condemn and anathematize Nestorius, Apollinarius and Eutyches.
2- The unity of the divinity and humanity of Christ was realized from the
moment of His conception, without separation or division and also without
confusing or changing.
3- The manhood of Christ was real, perfect and had a dynamic presence.
4- Jesus Christ is one Prosopon and one Hypostasis in real oneness and not
mere conjunction of natures; He is the Incarnate Logos of God.
5- They all accept the communicatio idiomatum (the communication of idioms),
attributing all the deeds and words of Christ to the one hypostasis, the
Incarnate Son of God.
Recent Efforts for Unity
In recent times, members of the Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian Orthodox
Churches have met together coming to a clear understanding that both families
have always loyally maintained the same authentic Orthodox Christological
In 1964 a fresh dialogue began at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. This
was followed by meetings at Bristol in 1967, Geneva in 1970 and Addis Ababa
in 1971. These were a series of non-official consultations which served as
steps towards mutual understanding.
The official consultations in which concrete steps were taken began in 1985
at Chambesy in Geneva. The second official consultation was held at the
monastery of Saint Bishoy in Wadi-El-Natroun, in Egypt in June 1989. The
outcome of this latter meeting was of historical dimensions, since in this
meeting the two families of Orthodoxy were able to agree on a Christological
formula, thus ending the controversy regarding Christology which has lasted
for more than fifteen centuries.
In September 1990 the two families of Orthodoxy signed an agreement on
Christology, and recommendations were presented to the different Orthodox
Churches, to lift the anathemas and enmity of the past, after revising the
results of the dialogues. If both agreements are accepted by the various
Orthodox Churches, the restoration of communion will be very easy at all
levels, even as far as sharing one table in the Eucharist.
As for its part, the Coptic Orthodox Church Synod, presided by HH Pope
Shenouda III, has agreed to lift the anathemas, but this will not take place
unless this is performed bilaterally, possibly by holding a joint ceremony.
I conclude that the term "monophysitism" does not reflect the real belief of
the non-Chalcedonians. They prefer not to be called "monophysites," as far as
the term may be misunderstood. They believe in one nature "out of two", "one
united nature", a "composite nature" or "one incarnate nature and not a
"single nature". There is no evidence that the term was used during the fifth
century. Most probably it. was introduced later in a polemic way on behalf
of the Chalcedonian Churches. However, considering the past, the
non-Chalcedonians are better to be called "mia-physites" than
"monophysites." Recently, in so far as they are coming to be understood
correctly, they are to be called simply "orthodox", the same belief with
their brothers the Chalcedonian Orthodox Churches. This could be an imminent
fruit of the unity of all Orthodox Churches.
Posted 04 September 2006 - 07:26 PM
Abba Wahba's articles, like the dialogue on the union website, do tend to show that the two Orthodox Communions have more in common than they have things that divide them. As Father Raphael has pointed out elsewere on this site, there is no profit to be gained from the sort of ecumenism that sweeps differences under the carpet and goes for a lowest common denominator (as a disillusioned Anglican I know only too well where that can lead), but when, as this discussion does, we look for information on what the Oriental Orthodox actually profess, then there may be a possibility of progress.
In the other thread I mention, Athanasius Abdullah has posted some more interesting pieces, and for those interested, there is other material on the website of the British Orthodox Church (http://www.britishorthodox.org). It all help the process of enlightenment, and generates more light than heat (in a discussion that so often does the opposite).
As a newcomer to the riches of Orthodoxy, I marvel at what I did not know, and feel blessed to be able to explore and experience it; but at the same time, I wish I had been where I now am thirty years ago. This world, not least its western parts, so badly needs what the True Church has to offer, and I hope I will be pardoned if I wish that its two Communions were able to spend more time spreading the Good News, and less time on historic divisions.
I stress, that is not a call for mindless ecumenism, but for the sort of robust dialogue that can alone produce unity; these posts are encouraging, not least for those of us still wondering which Orthodoxy we should commune with. I hope that won't be taken amiss, as it simply expresses the bewilderment of a searcher.
Posted 20 December 2006 - 07:10 AM
When I had given much thought and pondered on the matter, I became convinced that these quarrels among the different Christian Churches are not a matter of factual substance, but of words and terminology; for they all confess Christ our Lord to be perfect God and perfect human, without any commingling, mixing, or confusion of the natures... Thus I saw all the Christian communities, with their different christological positions, as possessing a single common ground that is without any difference between them. (Book of the Dove, Chapter IV)
Much has been accomplished in the past few decades especially in relationships with the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. In addition to theological dialogue, the Church also actively hosts and participates in dialogue in topics such as inter-church marriages, setting a common date for Easter, etc.
H.H. Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch, speaking at the University of Humboldt, Berlin on May 16, 1995, stated:
"The split of the Christian church is a big mistake, a blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and an ignoring of the existence of Christ who promised: "... the gates of hell will not prevail against it." (Mt 16:18) I invite you to stand before history for a moment to see the reason for our divisions. You will see that thousands of innocents have shed blood, righteous men have suffered and been expelled from their countries. We thank God that Christian churches in this generation have begun to feel the necessity of continuing the Christian dialogue and as a result they have drawn closer to each other and planned for continuous meetings at various levels to study different subjects. The unity of Christianity can only happen in and around Christ, who is the head of the Church and we with all our doctrines are only parts of the holy body of Christ.
Satan is still at work. He brings about disturbances, constantly encourages new splits and wants from that the division of the body of Christ which is the Church. We have to be careful. Politics usually uses religion to reach its worldly goals. We should limit our talks to spiritual themes because the kingdom of Christ is not of this world. We do not want the unity of Christianity to fight against other religions. Instead we want unity to reach our goal more quickly; that is the constructive dialogue with others who believe in God and here especially with the Muslims with whom we share one homeland. Let us learn from history. Let us avoid what splits us. Let us walk the way that leads to a better understanding, to a life in which love and peace rule."
The Syriac Orthodox Church has been a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC) since 1960, and is one of the founding members of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC). The Church is an active participant in the Middle-East Oriental Orthodox Churches Common Standing Committee which includes the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia.
Among all Christian Churches, the Eastern Orthodox Churches are closer to the Oriental Churches in spirituality, doctrine, and in historical experience. Dialogue with this family of Churches has the potential to be the most fruitful.
Unofficial consultations were held in Aarhus (Denmark) in 1964 and in Bristol (England) in 1967, attended by leading theologians from the two sides; there were further meetings in Geneva (1970) and Addis Abbaba (1971). The results were unexpectedly positive. As Bishop Timothy Kallistos Ware of Dioklea states in his book, The Orthodox Church (1993), it became clear that on the basic question which had led historically to the division—the doctrine of the person of Christ—there is in fact no real disagreement. The divergence, it was stated in Aarhus, lies only on the level of phraseology. The delegates concluded, 'We recognize in each other the one Orthodox faith of the Church... On the essence of the Christological dogma we found ourselves in full agreement.' In the words of the Bristol consultation, 'Some of us affirm two natures, wills and energies hypostatically united in the one Lord Jesus Christ. Some of us affirm one united divine-human nature, will and energy in the same Christ. But both sides speak of a union without confusion, without change, without divisions, without separation.' The four adverbs belong to our common tradition. Both affirm the dynamic permanence of the Godhead and the Manhood, with all their natural properties and faculties, in the one Christ.'
These four unofficial conversations during 1964-1971 were followed up by the convening of an official Joint Commission representing the two Church families: this met in Geneva in 1985, at Amba Bishoy monastery in Egypt in 1989, in Geneva in 1990, and for a fourth time in 1993. On the matter of the different christological formulations, which had been a stumbling block in the past, there was agreement that the underlying understanding of the Incarnation was the same, even though each side had its own preferred formula, when speaking of one or two "natures". The doctrinal agreements reached at the unofficial consultations were reaffirmed, and at the end of the third meeting in 1990, it was recommended that each side should now revoke all anathemas and condemnations issues in the past against the other. The fourth meeting (1993) discussed how in practice this might be done, and the proposal reached was that the anathemas and condemnations should be lifted "unanimously and simultaneously by the Heads of all the Churches of both sides, through signing of an appropriate ecclesiastical Act, the content of which will include acknowledgement from each side that the other one is Orthodox in all respects". In the view of the participants, once the anathemas have been lifted, this "should imply that restoration of full communion for both sides is to be immediately implemented" (Brock et al, 2001).
Difficulties still remain, for not everyone on the two sides is equally positive about the dialogue: there are some in Greece, for example, who continue to regard the Oriental Orthodox as 'Monophysite heretics', just as there are some Non-Chalcedonians who continue to regard Chalcedon and the Tome of Leo as 'Nestorian'. But the official view of both families of Churches was clearly expressed at the 1989 meeting: 'As two families of Orthodox Churches long out of communion with each other, we now pray and trust in God to restore that communion on the basis of the apostolic faith of the undivided Church of the first centuries which we confess in our common creed.' (Ware, 1993).
Other meetings aimed at bringing the two families of Churches closer together have also taken place, such as that between the two Youth Movements in May 1991, and the meeting of different Patriarchs of the Middle East in 1987 and 1991 (the specified aim of the second of these was "to give concrete expression of the close fellowship between the two Churches"). As a result of the second meeting, on 22nd July 1991, between Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I and Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim a number of important decisions were published in a statement. (Brock et al, 2001).
The statment is avilable at http://sor.cua.edu/E...umOrthStmt.html
Posted 20 December 2006 - 04:50 PM
Many thanks for this - and I heartily agree. If you look through the thread on EO/OO unity you will see a whole variety of views expressed on this matter, and can make up your own mind as to whether we could have managed things towards a better dialogue. Your patriarch, like the Metropolitan of the British Orthodox Church, Abba Seraphim [http://www.britishorthodox.org/], has made serious attempts to demonstrate that the fears of those who talk about Monophysites are unfounded, and if people would only trouble themselves to see what others actually believe before pronouncing on such matters, the process of true ecumenism would be much aided thereby - but, of course, the Evil One loves disunity and well knows how to use our pride and our stubbornness to his ends.
One of the many reasons for welcoming you to this site is that you bring a voice that we need to hear, and a point of view we need to know more about.
Posted 20 December 2006 - 06:34 PM
I am rather glad that you have woken this thread up so constructively.
The Orthodox Unity website is another one that I maintain and I you have reminded me that I need to completely go through it and bring it up to date both in times of content and design.
Posted 20 December 2006 - 06:45 PM
Dear John and Thomas Daniel,
I am rather glad that you have woken this thread up so constructively.
The Orthodox Unity website is another one that I maintain and I you have reminded me that I need to completely go through it and bring it up to date both in times of content and design.
I hope you will have the time to do so. It is a most useful site.
The statement Thomas Daniel cites is a most useful one, and I would hope that everyone here would take some interest in finding out what it is that other Orthodox communities actually believe, before commenting on the subject of unity.
We know what has been said for a millennium and a half, and we know how bad things have been at times - and yet, when we examine what it is others believe (rather than basing ourselves on what have been told they believe), it can be rather surprising to see the face of Orthodoxy in another context.
Of course, those who think this is not so should make haste to correct those of us who cannot see the hard doctrinal differences, but no one need fear (alas, perhaps) that anyone is moving too swiftly towards Orthodox unity.
I am finding much richness and much that is of benefit following up the leads given by Thomas Daniel, and am in his debt for this.
Those who have not looked at the site at http://www.orthodoxunity.org/ will, I trust, find much there to interest them - and thank you, Peter, for creating and maintaining it.
Posted 21 December 2006 - 05:12 AM
Posted 21 December 2006 - 11:52 AM
I was just finishing up reading the wonderful sermons of St. Gregory of Nyssa on the Lord's beatitudes, and in his sermon regarding 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God', I thought of our fellow Christian brothers, both in this forum and outside of it, who put so much energy and prayer in bringing unity and communion amongst the Orthodox faithful. Thank you for your tireless work. May the Lord of Lights illumine our hearts and minds and show us the path to full communion.
An uplifting post and good thoughts to ponder.
Last night's Vespers were Matthew 24:44-47
44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. 47 Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods
When He comes, will we be able to say that we have been 'faithful and wise'? Or will we be like the unfaithful servant in Matthew 25:24-29
24 Then he who had received the one talent came and said, `Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.
25 `And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.'
26 But his lord answered and said to him, `You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.
27 `So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.
28 `Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
29 `For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.
Will it be said of us that we preserved the pearl of great price safely by holding it close to us and hiding it?
From outside of Orthodoxy it seems as though there are a number of Churches, each of which makes a good claim to be the exclusive and True Church, and each of which cites much the same reasons for making this claim. Where, in all of this, is the inclusive True Church? The answer, or so it would seem, is in the kindesses and Christian lives of Orthodox believers - there, I can see it.
The Coptic Synaxarium reading for today includesthe commemoration of the honorable angel Michael
the Archangel, who is standing before God the Almighty interceding on behalf of the human race saying, "O Thou Who art not prone to anger, do not be angry. 0 Righteous One, have mercy on Your creation. 0 Thou Who is long suffering, do not destroy the work of Thy Hands."
And, given the way we so often behave, how we need that intercession. Archangel Michael, pray for us all and never cease your intercessions for us.
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