Saturday, November 28, 2020

Ukraine and Cyprus and diptychs oh my!

(Orthodox Synaxis) - Yesterday, November 25, 2020, the Holy Synod of Cyprus, by a vote of 10-7, issued the following statement:

The Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus, during its sessions of November 23 and 25, 2020, discussed in detail the Ukrainian Ecclesiastical Question as well as the problem that was created by the commemoration of Epifany as Primate of the Church of Ukraine on the part of His Beatitutude the Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos, and it decided not to oppose the above decision of His Beatitude.

At the same time, the Holy Synod looks forward to a wider consultation in which everyone may work to overcome the current crisis which threatens the Church of Christ with schism.

Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus

November 25, 2020

Archbishop Chrysostomos’ decision had previously received emphatic opposition from four metropolitans on the synod. In an interview following the decision, Metropolitan Nikephoros of Kykkos made the following statement...

Complete article here.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The MP says the EP does not have a (canonical) brain. The EP says the MP does not have a (pastoral) heart. Nobody in the Church of the East has any (Imperial) courage. Where is the Wizard?

    1. If you wanna see the Wiz... you just gotta ease on down the road.

    2. It's a good summary you make. This is essentially a battle between pastoral economia and canonical akrevia. Both are legitimate pastoral approaches, and bishops are entitled to make those decisions. We just have to stay the course on our faith journey, no matter how bad it gets. God is present through all of this.

    3. Jake:

      Can we know the Orhodox position on: The teaching of St Gregory Palamas; accepting the Council of Florence; and whether or not the confession ascribed to Patriarch Cyril Lucaris is Orthodox?

      BTW you should remember that “The Church of the East” is the proper name of the Church body of those (including my ancestors) who venerate Nestorius & Theodore Mopsuestia. I find your habitual (mis)use of the name unfortunate, as I have to remember, O this is Jake’s own personal (clever?) terminology.

    4. Fr. Yousuf,

      Forgive me in that my mashup/emphasis required the movement of 'Imperial' to the rear.

      Perhaps I am not following your question, but it appears you want to emphasize (over against my emphasis) the 'Ortho-doxia' character of this Imperial Church of the East (i.e. "Eastern Orthodoxy") of which we are both a part. I obviously prefer to not sweep these real ecclesiastical realities under the proverbial rug and discuss them openly.

      What do you think? How do you answer the Unam Sanctam question? Do you think the usual way (i.e. we are united in creed, Faith of the Fathers and EC's, etc.) "works" for you and your flock - and does it work for everyone else *out there* in the sea of secularism which is itself the late demise of (Imperial) Christendom? In other words, how is that Yellow Brick Road working out for ya? ;)

    5. Jake:

      “Forgive me in that my mashup/emphasis required the movement of 'Imperial' to the rear.”
      It remains unclear that your “emphasis” has moved the Imperial to the rear, rear of what? Why am I supposed to be offended at the movement of the Imperial to the rear of something?

      “Perhaps I am not following your question, but it appears you want to emphasize (over against my emphasis) the 'Ortho-doxia' character”

      The questions I asked are simple enough, and the answers are rather obvious. I would want to agree on certain factual data points, and then discuss the implications. But more on that in a moment.

      “of this Imperial Church of the East (i.e. "Eastern Orthodoxy") of which we are both a part.”

      In a medium that tends to brevity, why not just say Eastern Orthodoxy?

      “I obviously prefer to not sweep these real ecclesiastical realities under the proverbial rug and discuss them openly.”
      Sweep which realities under the rug?

      “What do you think? How do you answer the Unam Sanctam question? Do you think the usual way (i.e. we are united in creed, Faith of the Fathers and EC's, etc.) "works" for you and your flock - and does it work for everyone else *out there* in the sea of secularism which is itself the late demise of (Imperial) Christendom? In other words, how is that Yellow Brick Road working out for ya? ;)”

      I am not sure that any account of the unity of the Church (which one assumes is the point of the Latin words for One and Holy declined as in the Creed) in itself can solve the problems of living in a secular and increasingly post-modern society, but a mistake will no doubt make the problem worse.

    6. I think one of the most direct, and still quite timely, Christian approach to the contemporary situation is Fr Alexander Schmemann’s “Between Utopia and Escape”

      The sparkling language of that talk almost disguises how simple it really is. Fr A gives a quite devastating Christian appraisal to two of the most clear contemporary trends/ and temptations and then annunciates the Gospel.

      Likewise the account of the unity of the Church must be according to the Gospel. “we are united in creed, Faith of the Fathers and EC's, etc.” Hardly any account of the Church will be without those. Even the confessional Protestants tend to include them, if only the first 4 councils and the first five centuries of fathers, subordinated to “scripture”, the Bible as interpreted in the sect in question. What is important is how the Creed and the councils are said to relate to unity. The Councils are markers from crisis points that mark off divergences. It is a mistake to propose the ECs as the Orthodox equivalent of the Papacy in Roman Catholicism, not only because the ECs are not a continuing institution as the Papacy, or the biannual Synods. They precisely exist as responses to fundamental crises.

      They exist to codify consensus, hence my question. The Orthodox position on the points I asked is knowable, well known. Yes to Palamas, No to Florence, No to the Confession ascribed to Cyril Lucaris. The consensus is quite clear, so clear in fact, that anyone attempting to diverge from it would have insurmountable difficulties. This being the case, The Orthodox Church clearly has been able to define Her teaching , despite the absence of a council called Ecumenical. Or put another way, the very great truth that the 19th C thinkers attempted to codify with the term “conciliarity”, A) pre-existed those thinkers, B) pre-existed the I Nicea, and therefore the “conciliarity” of the church does not depend upon how often or even if such a council is held. It should be noted that the word sobornost’ (conciliarity) was coined in the 19th C in Russian from the adjective translating Catholic in the Creed, Soborny, with Sobor being a church council. I doubt that the original usage of soborny in the Creed was meant to mean “one holy, council-holding Church”, but rather was an attempt to coin a Slavic neologism for Catholic. This does not mean that those thinkers were entirely wrong, but to use the word ‘conciliar’ was a bit misleading. I think they were right, that part of the Catholicity of the Church is found in Her consensus, which is daily expressed in the life of the Church; and further, councils, esp. Ecumenical Councils, are crisis responses meant to deal with threats to that fundamental unity. To describe this as conciliar may mistake the healthy state of the Church with the mechanism meant to restore health.

      This brings us to a second word which with consensus will be essential to looking at the unity of Christ’s Church Militant here on earth. Reciprocity. The local diocese, the local bishop reading the scriptures, teaching the faith and celebrating the Eucharist with his local Church, do so in union with the other local Churches-dioceses and reciprocally recognize the Apostolic faith and life in the sister churches, and so remain in communion, and recognize each other.

    7. Consensus and reciprocity work well with the insights of “Eucharistic Ecclesiology”, to which so much effort has been put in the 20th C not only by Fr.s Afanasiev and Schmemann, but also by Met John Zizioulas, member of the C-ple Synod. This is most appreciated here because it sees the the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church fully manifest in the local Liturgical and Sacramental community (which we today call a diocese), where the Bishop, with his Presbyters and Deacons lead the Poeple of God in worship, teaching the Gospel, preaching, Baptizing the converted and Communing the Baptized at the Eucharistic banquet. This shows the great advantage of “Eucharistic Ecclesiology”, a Christ centered and Gospel centered ecclesiology. Consensus and reciprocity, not to mention the inner desire for unity that exists within the Church by Her nature and foundation.

      Consensus and reciprocity are keys to the understanding of the canonical tradition. You seem a bit allergic to any reference to the canonical tradition. It sometimes seems that the minute the C word comes up you mention farts. You seem to over estimate the degree to which the canons depend on the forms of the Empire in late antiquity. To take one example, the Metropolitan, always assigned to the Roman civil metropolis. The Church has had well over a millennium applying this canon in northern Europe, England, Eastern Europe – lands without imperial borders. Synods do not seem overtaxed to establish reasonable dioceses. The Church of the East (the one neither of us is a part of) managed to set up Metropolitans and Bishops as far as China before the end of the First Millennium. Pay more attention to the consensus and reciprocity which the canons require and you will see that the canons actually have a something of what we Americans would call “checks and balances”. Pay more attention to the purpose of a canon, when that is clear, (and it quite often is). The fact that the canons as a whole certainly require interpretation, does not mean that the Church can not refer to Her canonical tradition anymore and is at the mercy of utter anomialism.

      I do not believe in a Third Rome, I accept the rather obvious fact that we are post-Rome. So far, the break up of Empire has seemed to result, by accident and not design, and only recently, a sort of federation of National Churches. To uphold that as normative in itself is rather too close to Canterbury.

      I do not in fact accept the premise with which you began, between head and heart, much less the comment that this is “economia vs. akrivia”. Where you see pastoral concern others see cynical manipulation. The most recent comments about Met. Onufry from the EP were certainly not received in the UOC as ‘pastoral heart’. An ecclesial evaluation can not only rely on your (or my) perception of the EP’s motives, such perceptions being subjective. Such an evaluation must have some objectivity, from the canonical tradition.

      It seems to me that primacy at all levels is excercised as strong leadership when it serves the consensus, and nurtures the reciprocity between Bishops and the Churches they lead.

      The Arian crisis took two councils, and from 325 to 381 to start resolving. I hope this doesn’t take as long.

    8. Fr. Yousuf,

      How would you characterize Patriarch Kyrill's approach to the problem of schism in Ukraine? Since Met. Onuphrey is not the head of an autocephalous church, he is not the real player in the discussion. Met. Onuphrey is bound to accept in obedience the decisions of Patriarch Kyrill and the MP's Holy Synod. That's where the real decisions are coming from, not from Met. Onuphrey.

      As far as I can tell, Patriarch Kyrill has taken an approach of akrivia in regards to Ukraine, currently requiring canonical ordinations of Ukrainian clergy. That hasn't always been the case though. When it suited them, the Moscow Patriarchate has shown itself to be perfectly willing and able to practice extreme economia in the reception of Roman Catholic clergy. This is why Patriarch Bartholomew, when asked why he didn't require canonical ordinations for the Ukrainian schismatics, replied that he was content to follow the historical precedent and example of the Moscow Patriarchate.

    9. Fr. Yousuf,

      I appreciate your efforts to tackle this issue (i.e. Ukraine in particular, post-Empire "Eastern Orthodoxy" in general)in three long comment box efforts. What you say here is key IMO:

      "... So far, the break up of Empire has seemed to result, by accident and not design, and only recently, a sort of federation of National Churches..."

      You have a faith that the Faith (i.e. Gospel) is fully contemporaneous with "Eastern Orthodoxy" and that since this faith has persisted after the break up of the Imperial Church into a federation of National Churches (even though the canons themselves have not changed) and even dealt with serious theological/ecclesiastical crises since (i.e. your three examples), that Ukraine in particular and modernism in its relgious, cultureal, and ecclisastical particulars in general is just more of the same as it were - 'Eastern Orthdoxy' is all that is needed. Indeed, its main challenge to you seems to be to make sure EO does not 'reac't to the modern secular situation on any level and avoid a theological "mistake" as you put it, one that will "no doubt make the problem worse". Is sense the RC history with its popes, counter reformation(s) and the like lurk behind this position.

      I think there is much to commend your (very normative) position and I myself am attracted to its inherent conservatism. That said I don't think it holds up. Much has changed in the last 200 years. The speed of the dissolution of the particular historical cultural, governmental, and "religious" factors that contextualized your three examples for example have me questioning if a similar outcome could happen in our modern context.

      To put it another way, I think the modern context (let's call it "moderism") is stressing the conciliar nature (by which I mean the "spirit" of unity *in* the Gospel and not a mere 'mechanism of crises' as you rightly put it) of Church and her unity from the outside (e.g. nation states and national/ethnic "Churches", culture and its "multi" secuar nature, etc.) but also from within (e.g. how all Christians, whether they are EO or not, are fundamentally *secularized* themselves - something Charles Taylor is at pains to describe). In other words up until recently there was enough of Imperial Christendom left in the general culture of say the medieval Slavic village, or the Greeks under Ottoman oppression, that "Eastern Orthodoxy" could and did retain the spirit of a conciliar Gospel. What has changed is that underlying residual of Christendom has been decimated by the modern context...(to be cont.)

    10. (continuing...)

      This is perhaps nowhere more evident than North America, which even when it was Christian culturally rested on radical Protestantism and not Imperial Christendom - but even this root is now dead and we are fundamentally a secular culture through and through. To describe Eastern Orthodoxy in NA as "canonical" in a formal structural sense is just silly. Instead we have taken the de facto "national Church" model and applied it all the way down to each city and parish.

      Beyond "jurisdictionalism" and ecclisology on a formal level there is the problem of how secularism is not just aproblem and pressure from the outside, but is more fundamentally a disease within - each and every person suffers from it to a great degree. Here the normative EO praxis and pattern of life of parish centered sacramentalism seems almost designed to ignore, let alone properly contextualize and face.

      In any case, you yourself admit that the current situation is "too close to Cantebury" but then you want to hark back to an Imperial (canonical) structure and declare it adequate for the Ukraine in particular and generally. The incoherence in your own position is as obvious as is its inadequacy. That said you have a faith in "Eastern Orthodoxy", that surely a conciliar solution will be found just as it has in the post-Empire past (your three examples). I don't have such a faith because I think the context has fundamentally changed...

    11. Oh, I want to add I am not seeing how Fr Alexander Schmemann is behind your position. That particular essay (which I admittedly only skimmed) seems to be a general affirmation of the Christian/Greek synthesis of teleogy and its central place in the Gospel, and how it transcends (to pick a word) particular manifestations of the late 70's and early 80's wider culture. Elsewhere Fr. Alexander more directly address the themes we are discussing here (e.g. "For the Life of the World") and is quite critical of post Imperial Orthodoxy (i.e. EO) and its *cultural* (i.e. the internal) appropriation of western metaphysics and thus the "liturgical comprehension" of the sacraments. example. If anything his analysis suggests that we have moved away from a 1st millennium, teleological comprehension of the conciliar Gospel and its expression(s) Sacrementally and into the very dialectics that are in part responsible for the dissolution of Christendom and Christian culture in the west...

    12. Of course certain people will cynically appraise the Ukrainian autocephaly in the same way that the hard hearted son was upset at the return of his prodigal brother. When did these people ever express pain over the schism and the rupture of the unity of the Church or concern for the salvation of their Ukranian brothers? Instead, they desire to perpetuate the schism in order to protect certain interests and to do this they will not hesitate to weaponize the canons and even the eucharist against their opponents.

      Every bishop of the Moscow Patriachate takes an oath to be faitful to the Russian state. What sort of outcome does one expect from this reality? Patriarch Bartholomew organized pan orthodox gatherings to synodically settle the process of granting autocephaly but they reached an impasse as the attendees spent a week debating who needs to sign where on a tomos. He also sent an invitation to all Orthodox bishops on Ukrainian soil, including all 80 MP bishops, to attend the Unification Council where Metropolitan Onoufry could have been elected primate of the new autocephalous Church but they refused to attend. The Patriarch was looking for solutions to the schism before many of those anathematizing him online even joined the Orthodox Church. He met with Patriarch Alexey II at the Kiev Caves Lavra in 2008* where they discussed the schism and it was agreed that the situation was grave and urgent and required that both work together towards a solution. Patriarch Alexey's successor Kirill was also at the meeting but took a different approach when he became Patriarch. He stated in 2016 during the meeting of primates in Chambesy, Switzerland that the Moscow Patriarchate would only attend the Council of Crete on the condition that the subject of Ukrainian Autocephaly not be addressed.

      Historically, autocephaly was granted in the spirit of self-sacrifice and out of concern for the salvation of those cut off but these considerations have been absent from the calculus of the Moscow Patriarchate, certainly the Russian Federation and its supporters.

      *I noticed that one of the most eminent theologians of our Church, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, was studying and writing about the Ukrainian situation at the same time and for his troubles he is today being labelled a CIA collaborator.

    13. The admonishment from Ephesians 6:4 comes to mind, "Fathers provoke not your children to wrath". The annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation was a provocative act for many Ukrainians, even though that may not have been Russia's intention. I believe Patriarch Kyrill was actually quite dismayed by it, because he knew it wouldn't bode well for Orthodoxy in Ukraine.

      Today it's ironic that Crimea is still part of the UOC-MP, regardless of the annexation. It's still territory represented by Metropolitan Onuphrey. What does that say? It's a mixed message. Russia says it's now part of Russia. The ROC says it's still part of Ukraine. That tells me that Patriarch Kyrill doesn't agree with the annexation of Crimea. In other words, I believe he is trying not to provoke Ukrainians. Yet when Vladimir Putin extols the virtues of "Russian World" and laments the collapse of the Soviet empire, it sounds like Patriarch Kyrill doesn't have much choice in the matter. Perhaps because of the state of the world, it's apparently impossible right now for the MP to make peace, except according to their own terms.

  3. Then Rome is the Emerald City, and the Wizard, who was not exactly what he claimed to be, is...