A Generous Orthodoxy
14-04-2008, 01:54 PM
Indeed: 'How shall we live?'
He told us that it would be by our love each for the other that we would be identified as His children; by that standard how many of us fall short?
Some, there are, who think this is a pink fuzzy liberal cop-out; I think the cop out is not dealing with the question of what it means to love each other. Some there are who talk of tough love; in it is to be found more of the former than the latter. In some the spirit of domination and control runs high; and in the name of love Christians have committed some great atrocities. No doubt those who handed Our Lord over to be crucified were motivated by love for their fellow Jews and the desire to save them from this blasphemer.
We know from St. Paul's description what the qualities of Christian love are; we from Our Lord Himself that we are called to love our enemies and those who hurt us.
There is an inside and an outside to the Church. The inside consists of those theological realities which make her what she is in the saving economy of God: the continuation of the Spirit of Pentecost; the body of Christ living with His Spirit; this is a great mystery which brings us into the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Outside, the Church has an existence as a public and social body; she has a history which is part of that of this world. Part of that 'outside' is her liturgy, her canons and the culture within which she exists. The imperfect correspondence between her 'inside' and her 'outside' is part of our daily tragedy.
But we have His assurance that the reality of His salvation will always be communicated through her - whatever her earthly frailties and the shortcomings of her leaders. Many of the texts we quote at each other when ecclesiology is being discussed are worthless in this sense. Ecclesiology was not a recognised category of theology in patristic times; indeed even in the West one has to wait for the post-medieval schoolmen before one gets a sophisticated account of ecclesiological theory; I'm unconvinced we get it in the east until more modern times.
In patristic times the Church was taken for granted as the necessary medium and he environment in which we meet with God through Christ. Clement of Alexandria tells us:
Quote:Just as the will of God is an act and is called the world, so also is His intention is the salvation of the men and is called the Church. (Paedagogus, I:6)St. Maximos sees the Church as the image of God, as the source and end of all things; it mirrors the divine unifying activity. Where do we see that in the 'outside' of our Churches?
If, as St. Cyril tells us, the Church is the place in which we are filled with the very life of God, where theosis occurs, then we know that from our 'inside' knowledge of the Church. Since the whole purpose of the Incarnation is our divinization, that has its model in our Christology. That is why Christology matters.
We do not hold that Christ is a divine person whose two natures contribute to a total reality. The hypostatic union between the Word of God and the human nature of Jesus sees the divine penetrating the human to transfigure it. This is not to say that the humanity is swallowed up by the divinity (which would be Monophysite); but it is to say that it is wholly penetrated and transformed by it; in that sense, and that sense only, the divine nature is primary. That is why the non-Chalcedonians were accused of Monophysitism. But it seems to me that this is also now believed by Chalcedonians, at least in the West, where Catholic Christology tended in that direction until the more recent neo-Antiochian writings of those like Kaspar. Pope Pius XII certainly held a Christology similar to the one outline above.
If we come back to the definition of a Church offered before. The Oriental Orthodox are comfortable with the Ignatian model - the local community of the bishop with his priests, deacons and his people. This is not just the fundamental definition of the Church, it is the place where the 'inside' and the 'outside' meet. Any wider definition is the agglomeration of those Churches - which is why we pray for the 'Orthodox Churches'. Theologically, nothing is gained by adding them together, and if many, or any, should fall away, that is of no effect. He is present at the Eucharist. Breaks in communion are a symptom of sickness in the Body of Christ - not a life and death affair.
That is enough for now, and I need to be corrected is I have gone further than is orthodox in my Christology; so for now, I shall stop, take breath - and correction.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
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 - John Charmley - 14-04-2008 01:54 PM