Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A word on what I'm doing here.

Actually, this will be more than a word. But first let me speak to the Council.

You can draw a rather complete picture of my view of the Council as I've posted on it over the years. It is not what it could be. In its blandness and soft words - oddly reminiscent at times of the modern secular lexicon - it doesn't reverberate in the hearts of the faithful with topics that echo their concerns. Also, as more than a few people have noted, words matter. There are long position papers put out on things like why "man" is a much better word than "human person." We must seek after a patristic mind and flee imprecision.

Still, it is a start. The inaugural event is always more fraught with trepidation and mistakes that its successors. My chief concern has always been that the Holy Spirit should be given room to act. Instead the Council has been pigeonholed to 6 topics and, as we have seen mentioned in the pressers, topics outside the agenda are out-of-bounds. And yet I am also aware I'm not in the room and have no view into the closed sessions. I can't rightly decry with righteous indignation the current Council when I'm not a party to the process myself. All will out in the end: "You will know them by their fruits."

There. That's out of the way.

This is a blog. It is not a news outfit. No one pays me to post anything nor is there a foundation that sends me money by the word. If we look at this with a chronological and historical eye, it was my wife who thought with all my combing of Orthodox resources on the Internet that I should put what I find in one place online. It followed me from Texas, to seminary, to the priesthood and parish life. Six thousand, four hundred and fifty-six posts later we are here.

If I enjoy a photo of a monk throwing a snowball, it will probably get posted. If I think someone made an interesting point, it might get posted. If there is a spat between two parties and you are expecting that I'm going to strive for the news media's Israel-Palestinian parity policy you're going to be let down. There is bias, but there is also often an attempt to post from the other side as well. Also, I will post about non-Chalcedonians or even Greek Catholics (as I've done since the beginning) without feeling like I'm putting out sugary treats forming an insidious path to an inescapable gingerbread house of heresy.

It's wonderful to have so many people visit every day from all over the world. There are lots of emails with stories sent to me, lots of comments on what makes it into a post, and even the occasional retweet. I appreciate it all. But this isn't network news. This is a blog. I ask that you be civil. Or, as we say to visitors in Texas, "Howdy! Wipe your feet and take your hat off."


  1. Your blog is MUCH appreciated! Goes with my morning coffee, along with "First Thoughts," "The New Liturgical Movement," and Canada's " National Post." And thanks for including all Eastern Christians, and not only those you are in communion with.

  2. Many thanks for your candid posts and consistency of labor. Though I may not agree with everything that gets posted, who cares: this is clearly by far the premiere Orthodox news blog on the internet, whether judged by content quality, comment moderation, clientele, or steady number of posts. Keep up this great service to the Church!

  3. I appreciate what you're doing very much. Thank you for keeping it up.

  4. I look at your offerings every day in my i-combings for news. The Lord reward you for your endeavours!
    V. Rev. Fr Patrick B. O'Grady,
    Rector, St Peter the Apostle Antiochian Orthodox Church, Pomona
    Associate, The Antiochian Orthodox Institute, La Verne, California

  5. Many thanks to Matushka for the idea and to you for carrying it off well--very well indeed!

  6. "...In its blandness and soft words - oddly reminiscent at times of the modern secular lexicon - it doesn't reverberate in the hearts of the faithful with topics that echo their concerns..."

    Well stated, and could be said of the whole "program" of the EPcate going back decades. Such imprecision can also be a sign of an underlying and fundamental apostasy (though I would not go so far as to say the Bartholomew or the majority of those under him suffer from this). The use of such language is common by the likes of Fr. Robert Arida, "theologians" at Fordham, etc. and reveals their underlying desire and program of reform (of the Church's anthropology and normative moral tradition). When you are trying to "update" something you have to first subvert it a bit to try to pry peoples fidelity to it, and language becomes a kind of tool (dare I say weapon) in this process.

    For the vast majority of the Faithful in our western culture, the use of the "secular lexicon" is a kind of "necessary evil" at times in our dealings with the secular world, though I openly question whether it is leading to more harm than good. It really has no place in our prayer and worship life, and I wish more priests and preachers would spend more time explaining the fundamental difference between a secular mind and a Orthodox Christian (ascetical) mind.

    Reading documents of the EPcate from the last 100 years what strikes me first is this "imprecision" and naivety around language and the western secular world. Is the EPcate simply trying to "become all things to all", wise as a serpent OR is there a fundamental confusion and compromise with the secular world and it's ways of thinking and being around God and man? Unfortunately, I think it is a bit of both. This is the case with us all is not though? Are we ALL not compromised with the world in some way or other, as all men sin? True, but in the EPcate's case it is tasked by it's very being (ecclesiastically, etc.) to rise above this and be inSpirited - to lead the Church (whether by councils, etc.) away from compromise, imprecision, and sin and into the Truth.

    So, I am not so sure that this council is truly "a start" or inauguration of anything, because I question whether the modern EPcate can be the ground of anything like this. If it is the start of a REAL "Holy and Great Council" then it is despite of the EPcate and most everything it stands for and truly God would be working a great thing!

    Christopher (not sure why my Google account says "Jake" - I set it up years ago...I will have to investigate...)

    1. Can you point to a specific point of the signed letters from the Synod which you doctrinally object to? Thanks

  7. excellent blog, thank you! I especially appreciate your pan-Eastern approach: OO, EO, Greek Catholic, etc.

  8. I also appreciate your hard work and breadth of information.

    Dom Theodore, Prior
    Monastery of Our Lady & St Laurence

  9. Thank you so much for all of your hard work Father. It truly is the height of my day when I get off to race to see if you've posted another exciting article or post!

  10. From one of those Greek Catholics...thank you Father for the great blog.

    1. Seconded! The level of good ecumenism and commenting across the normal lines is something I wish my own blog had.

    2. As a "Greek Catholic" I've never felt shunned here, no matter how much some commenters and I have disagreed.

  11. From one of those Greek Catholics...thank you Father for the great blog.

  12. For the life of me I cant figure out why this is a Great Council? The topics are timely but certainly are not pressing for the Church to sped this kind of time or money on it. Perhaps someone can shed some light on my point of view?

  13. Tony asks:

    “Can you point to a specific point of the signed letters from the Synod which you doctrinally object to? Thanks “

    Sure. I am no exactly sure what you mean by “signed”, but looking at the pre-conciliar “THE MISSION OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN TODAY’S WORLD “ there is this statement:

    “... without regard to race, sex, age, social, or any other condition into a single body where there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female (Gal 3:28; cf. Col 3:11). “

    What does “condition” mean? What does “together” mean? How does such language avoid a secularized understanding of the anthropos and our condition and our cure? The language is too squishy.

    Then there is this header:

    “The Attitude of the Church Toward Discrimination”

    What IS “discrimination”, exactly? According to my states “Human Rights Commission”, if I own a photography business and refuse to participate in an unholy liturgy of “gay marriage” I am in violation of “discrimination” laws. Why does this text borrow the language and presuppositions of a secularized world view?

    There is this statement:

    “The ecological crisis, which is connected to climate change and global warming, makes it incumbent upon the Church... “

    Why does “the Church” agree with the secular (and very apocalyptic) philosophy of an “ecological crises”. Is there truly a generalized crises? What about the simplistic moral evaluation of climate change/global warming = bad? The fact that the climate changes is a given, why is “bad” now? If Siberia warms up, the amount of arable land of the planet increases by about 50% and humanity can truly feed a growing population. Why then does the (moral) equation work out to: global warming = good? These questions are answered of course by how you judge (and accept) secularized presuppositions about humanities place in the “ecosystem”.

    Perhaps the whole document can be summed up by the last sentence:

    “...namely, the sacrificial love of the Crucified Lord, the only way to a world of peace, justice, freedom, and love among peoples and between nations. “

    Is that really the mission of the Church? Is this utopia-on-earth, this “love” even possible in this world that ends in utter destruction (2 Peter 3:10). Do we not rather look for these “evil days” (Eph 5:10) to mercifully come to an end and for a “new heaven/new earth”? What relationship does this moral “mission” have with the actual mission of Christ's Body?

    Documents such as these are first and foremost MORAL documents, but humanities “problem” is not reducible to a morality and it's solution is not a moral one otherwise there was no reason for Christ to come at all – this is the “doctrinal” truth of Christianity and one wonders if and how this document (and all such documents) express this. In the end, documents such these are in a profound sense reactionary (to whatever the “crises” is of the day) and so they truly are neither here nor there. They give too much away to secularized and secularizing understandings of this or that, and no almost no one in the world actually cares what it says or even bothers to read it. Thankfully, most of the Faithful are too busy working out their salvation to read them also… ;)

  14. Then there is the "RELATIONS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH WITH THE REST OF THE CHRISTIAN WORLD", which is simply an apologia for the status quo of the "ecumenical movement" of the last 100 years. Even though the document speaks of "a crises" within the movement, it refuses to admit that the ground of the movement is a particular secularized understanding of "dialogue" and that it is fundamentally bankrupt and can not lead us to REAL "Christian unity" because it rests on a false view of man, "dialogue", repentance, and unity.

    Because the EPcate is so heavily invested in this "movement", it will not even consider hitting the "reset button" on it or looking at the REAL basis of its failure.

    This document is nothing but a rationalization of the status quo and simply extends the current divisive "ecumenism" indefinitely into the future. The next real "Great and Holy" council will be recognizable because (amongst other things) it repents of the collective denial the EPcate (and any Church that signs on to this document) is in about the reality of ecumenism both as an ideal and as a practical program...

    1. Thank you Jake. I am happy you recognized that I asked about the 'signed' documents, for as we know, they have not yet been released yet. God willing, there will be some improvements in the verbiage after the deliberations are ended.

      I have reservations about some things in the preconcilliar texts, but not so much the ones you have listed, such as your objection to using the words 'conditions' and 'discrimination' as being vague, squishy language. If it adds a 'secularized understanding of the anthropos and our condition or cure', it may be because that is the meaning you are attaching to it. I don't see it that way at all, unless that is the understanding I wish to add to it. Human words have limitations in expression, especially ones used in translations. Nevertheless, I don't see the problem with these particular words used as you do.

      Your critique regarding climate change also seems a bit rash. Whether climate change will introduce favorable benefits for some regions and unfavorable challenges to others is not the main point. Rather, I understand it, it is to address how the Church will witness in a world which is always changing and beset with seismic (pun intended) catastrophes. I don't think anything in the document said anything about a carbon tax or any specific proposals. Merely, it is bringing attention to a global concern of many.

      The issue you have witht the last sentence, again, I feel is nitpicking. It sound too utopic, you complain? It sound to me like a very Christian way to end such a document, with the hope of peace, justice and love among people. Is this too squishy too?

      Overall, your objections seem (to me) contrived, as if your just looking for reasons to hate the preconcilliar texts (which, btw, were pretty much unanimously signed by all the Patriarchs prior to the councils). Something tells me that had the Russians et al participated, the terms like 'condition' and 'discrimination' or the last sentence you quoted would not have even been on the radar. (And, again, I am saying this as someone who does agree with some of the objections laid out by the Synod of Georgia and Bulgaria.)

  15. Tony,

    No, the meaning being attached is by those these sorts of documents are ostensibly aimed at. Just ask my states "Human Rights Commission". If you are able to sift through the secularized language and "translate" it, good for you but it only takes a little effort to see how "the world" understands these words.

    The secularized world is all for "peace, justice, and love among people". Agreeing to use squishy language is the easy part - the real work is communicating what these words mean in an actual Orthodox Christian context. These sorts of documents don't really do the hard part for several reasons a couple of which I note.

    I am not sure the Russians are significantly better at these sorts of documents than anyone else. I recall reading their social documents a few years ago and thinking to myself that they are a bit more rigorous at times than is typical but I am not sure it makes all that much difference.

    A typical modernist is going to read this sort of thing and think "great, you agree with me on some important things like peace and love but really, why do you need all that Christ stuff"? Frankly, I think if we are honest we would have to agree - what is the need for Christ when all the world really needs is a moral tweak here and there?

    Christianity is truly a radical thing. If it has any value at all, it will address the REAL problems of life and death and meaning. These sorts of documents simply agree with the (secularized) world and it's understanding in too many ways...