UNITY WITH THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX AFTER 1500 YEARS?
SOME HOPEFUL TALK ON COMMUNION
(INTERVIEW WITH ARCHBISHOP ALEXANDER)
Video here. Audio podcast here
Theological beliefs are not blocking union and communion between two of the largest branches of ancient Christianity, according to an Orthodox scholar and hierarch in America.
Unlike with the Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox (Russia, Greece, etc.) and the Ethiopians and other Oriental Orthodox (Egypt, India, Armenia and others) share very similar views on doctrine and worship, says Archbishop Alexander Golitzin in an interview with GlobalStoryline. The Eastern and Oriental Orthodox broke communion in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon.
"They are virtually the same as we," says Golitzin, Archbishop of the Diocese of the South and the Bulgarian Diocese for the Orthodox Church in America, and also a top scholar worldwide on ancient mystical Christian theology.
Ethiopia has over 1000 monasteries and a Christian tradition beginning with the Apostle Philip baptizing the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8). The Apostle Matthew was martyred there and the Ethiopian government was declared Christian by A.D. 325. With over 50 million Orthodox Christians, Ethiopia is by far the largest of the Oriental Orthodox.
In the interview, His Eminence Alexander describes in detail a series of colloquia that took place over two decades between the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox starting in the 1960s. Participating were Orthodox stalwarts Georges Florovsky, John Romanides, John Meyendorff and others. The result? They concluded, according to Golitzin, that “we really don’t believe differently.”
We are not divided “by the substance of the faith,” he said, but rather by which saints are saints, which are anathematized, who is the patriarch of a certain area, such as Alexandria and Syria, and certain specifics of the liturgy.
He said the two churches in Syria—and also Egyptian Copts and Greeks—allow the faithful to commune in each other’s churches when necessity requires, and weddings are recognized by both churches.
He said agreement was reached theologically in the 11th Century with the Greeks and Armenians. Smaller differences such as leavened and unleavened bread broke down the talks. “But the primary fault was with the Byzantines.”
Eastern and Oriental Orthodox are "nourished from the same sources," said Golitzin. Their "wellsprings of spirituality . . . are the monastic tradition, the ascetical tradition, just as with us."
"Orthodox spirituality is properly monastic spirituality . . . that’s not the case, however, in the West.”
How to navigate the problem over the Council of Chalcedon? "We must accept the Seven Councils as we have them as articulating the faith ‘Orthodoxly,'” said the Archbishop. "But that doesn’t mean necessarily that the faith others might hold, who are not part of the communion of the Seven Councils—that faith may be identical, substantially identical."
During the interview, Golitzin described in more detail how differing definitions of words, not differences in belief, played a major role in the Chalcedon split. He said the Oriental Orthodox were "terminological conservatives," insisting on using the definitions of St. Cyril of Alexander, considered a champion of Orthodoxy by both traditions.
"The councils provide us with a kind of precision . . . There is a certain usefulness for that. It prevents confusions that exactly arose and acted to divide the church in the 5th and 6th Centuries. So, that’s good. But to raise the precisions to the level of the absolute bedrock—what makes us Orthodox Christians—isn’t a verbal formula. It is the faith in God the Word made flesh, and in our communion in God the Word made flesh through his body the Church. That’s the substance as I understand it. And in that case, I think there is the same substance among them, the non-Chalcedonians."
"I’m not arguing for flexibility in the sense of tolerance of what's wrong, but maybe tolerance for a different and perhaps less precise way of articulating the faith, if insisting on our own way keeps us from communion."
“[Union] is not going to come down from on high," the Archbishop said, noting that this has already happened through the colloquia and with a statement from the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1989. "What we need to do is see each other more. And talk to each other, do things together, visit each other. We should have Sunday school classes attending each other’s liturgies. We should have clergy regularly meeting with each other."
The archbishop does not sense any "active hostility" anywhere in the Eastern Orthodox hierarchy toward the Ethiopians and Orientals. "But there is very much . . . that kind of patronizing 'well, we'll accept the little brother if they become just like us.'"
"Father John Meyendorff put it to me this way: he said, ‘They are to most of us as we are to most of the Catholics—kind of an interesting fossil to the side.’ And not without a bit of patronization too. Or more than a bit."
"Well, I don’t think that kind of thing wins friends and affects union."
"We have to have more genuine empathy and respect. And that comes only by prolonged and extensive contact."
Archbishop Alexander earned his doctoral degree from Oxford under (now Metropolitan) Kallistos Ware, taught Patristics at Marquette University for 23 years, and is the author of Mystogogy: a Monastic Reading of Dionysius the Aereopagite.
(This is a robot transcription. Please bear with the many errors, especially in punctuation.)
Host Dean Arnold: Welcome to Global Storyline. Today our guest is His Eminence Archbishop Alexander Golitzin who is Archbishopof the Diocese of the South and Dallas and also the Bulgarian Diocese for the Orthodox Church of America.
Your Eminence did I pronounce Golitzin correctly?
+Alexander: Yes, pretty good.
Arnold: Okay, okay.
+Alexander: We're the Orthodox Church in America, not of America.
Arnold: Orthodox Church in America. That's interesting. Okay, I learn something new every day. Okay the Archbishop grew up in Burbank California, went to Berkeley, got his degree in English there. He moved on to St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York where he got his master's degree and then he got a Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford University in England. He studied under Kallistos Ware who's now the Metropolitan there. He has also spent several years and visited several times the Simonas Petras Monastery in Mount Athos Greece. Did I pronounce Simonas correctly?
Arnold: Very good. Simonas Petras monastery in Mt. Athos Greece. He then went on to teach patristics at Marquette for 23 years. He is a world scholar on mystical theology and especially Dionysius the Areopagite and has a book out on that subject entitled “Mystagogy: a mystical reading of Dionysius the Areopagite.”
+Alexander: A monastic reading of Dionysius.
Arnold: A monastic reading. Okay I see. I learn things all the time as we go along here. "A Monastic Reading of Dionysius the Areopagite." That is available on Amazon online. Just take a look.
He also, (just some personal notes) he grew up talking theology and literature and all sorts of things around the dinner table with Alexander Schmemann. I'm told that your Golitzin line has some kind of royalty attached to it. So, maybe you can tell me about that.
+Alexander: They weren't royalty. They were just gentry.
Arnold: They were gentry. So, just a step above the peasants but not quite royalty.
+Alexander: Well actually more than a step I'm afraid. Since the peasants were serfs.
Arnold: Since I didn't clarify we're talking about Russia here. So this is a Russian ancestry.
Arnold: What year did your people come over?
+Alexander: They left Moscow just after the October Revolution.
Arnold: Very good. Very good.
Okay, so today our topic is the Oriental Orthodox. Also known as the Syrian Orthodox and particularly the Ethiopian church which is a church that I’m particularly attached to. I finished my second trip in Ethiopia about two months ago. Originally I got interested before I became Orthodox. As a Protestant I saw a VHS video I think it was a National Geographic that had a whole hour, hour and a half long documentary on the possibility of the Ark of the Covenant being in Ethiopia. I was, I was awestruck that that it was even a possibility. I had no idea that Ethiopia had a 2000 year Christian heritage much less a thousand years or possible Judaism before that. I was very intrigued by the whole concept. Not that I was fully persuaded but nevertheless just the preponderance of evidence is just worth looking at.
So, that caused me, especially when I became Orthodox, to be very intrigued with the Ethiopian church. I began to study it. I got more interested. Then a year and a half ago when I found myself going to Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya for a family trip, I took some of that time (half the time) and went up to Ethiopia to begin to explore that country. I was able to make some contacts meet some people and this last time that I went I was able to spend time with the the head academic dean of the orthodox seminary
in Ethiopia with 3,000 students—kind of the John Behr of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church—he's my main contact there. He's a wonderful man named Girma Batu, and I also got to meet the bishop who oversees the seminary, a couple of the professors, of course got to go to some holy sites and that sort of thing as well. But they are very, they are very enthusiastic and excited about Russian mystical theologians they want to get every book they can get in English it's hard for them to get them there and they feel very much a kindred towards the Eastern Orthodox Church and and so it's a wonderful thing and of course ...
+Alexander: So you should them my book.
Arnold: I should send them your book. If you will … if you'll send me—if you have any that you want to donate, I will send them directly to them and then I might buy a few copies myself and send it as well. They would love your book Your Eminence, they sure would.
Now for those different spectrums of knowledge in terms of people who will listen to this podcast, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is not technically in communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church. They are in communion with the Egyptian Coptic Church they’re in communion with the church in southern
India, with the Armenians, and a couple of others that are part of this what we call—would you rather in this podcast call them Syrian Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox?
+Alexander: I think they prefer Oriental Orthodox to describe the group.
Arnold: Yeah, that's what I've been using. it's just a little confusing for some people they always think of Asians when they think of Orientals. so there's six or seven expressions of the Oriental Orthodox and the Ethiopians being by far the largest. But we are as Eastern Orthodox—which is Russia Greece a lot of Eastern European countries. Of course the Orthodox Church IN America, and the Greek churches here and worldwide—we are not technically in communion with the Ethiopian Orthodox, nor the Oriental Orthodox although there is a close kinship and so we'll talk about that today, but having kind of set that up Your Eminence why don't you go ahead and take it from there and tell us about your impressions of the Oriental Orthodox and you can begin to tell us about the Council of Chalcedon in the 5th century that got us to where we are today.
+Alexander: Yes, it is a very ancient schism. 1500 years we've not been in communion with each other. And you bring it up actually in your questions, that is the excellent point that in spite of this being 1500 years of division in terms of their spirituality their liturgical consciousness that is their understanding of the church's worship they are virtually the same as we with respect for example - as you bring up - to Roman Catholics and let alone the Protestant churches, they're much closer in mind you could say to us then either of us yes to the churches of the Western family.
So what does this division mean, what was it about? well that brings us to the Council of Chalcedon which is the break. It took place in 451 A.D. It was a very big deal and there were over 500 bishops present. It was the most of any of the councils that we recognize as ecumenical and it was called to address the question of Monophysitism.
Monophysite is the usual epithet that is applied to the Oriental Orthodox in the textbooks. It is not a word that they like.
Arnold: They're very careful to tell me that they're non Calcedonian, they don't like the word “Monophysite” at all.
+Alexander: No not at all. They will admit to being Miaphysite but not Monophysite. Now what was the ostensible teaching that drew the reaction of the council it seems to have gone back to an archimandrite in Constantinople named Eutychius who at least according to the sources claimed that when God united with man in Christ Jesus the the humanity is utterly swallowed up—in effect disappears.
Now none of the oriental Orthodox churches recognize Eutychius as anything other than a heretic, none of them approve of him. But they did not accept the council's definition of the union of God in man in Christ. The council’s definition spoke of one person in two natures. Here we come to the source of the phrase Monophysite Monophysitism means nature Monophysite means a single nature. Now the textbooks understand that phrase as referring as equating essence with nature, nature and essence are the same therefore the Lord Jesus is God, where the humanity has simply disappeared, swallowed up in the essence of God if you will.
Now again none of the so-called monophysites hold that position but they do insist on the other hand that there is one nature in Christ. The problem here is the meaning of the word nature. The non-Caledonians are terminological conservatives, that is they hold to the phraseology of St. Cyril of Alexandria as the measure of Christological orthodoxy and in one place or more than one place Cyril speaks of one nature of God the Word incarnate. However, how is he using the word nature? well in fact he's using it to indicate a single concrete entity. He is in effect using it in the same way that we would use person.
You see these terms were not nailed down in the 5th century in the way that we have them now, the way we have them now is the result of much argument not the least including a Imperial decree by emperor Justinian who's trying to clean up this mess. Justinian in this decree says the following "all right everyone listen up: from now on we will use the word hypostasis as equating with person--two different Greek words--hypostasis and prosopon. Prosopon is a countenance and it's also word for mask as in as in ancient theatre. Hypostasis is the word that they kept with the Cappadocian fathers used to denote the three of the holy trinitthere's one ousia and three hypostases but they use that word because it's a very strong word in Greek, it literally translates as substance, so you could say that the Trinitarian definition in the Eastern Christian tradition is antonomial--all three substances, one being. three things, one thing. So hypostasis: there is almost an ,equivalent of ousia of essence, but not quite.
Now the other word, the word, the ,problematical word is the word nature--physis. This word can be used depending on the writer to mean something equivalent to essence, what is common to the three persons or denoting the … well to use it to use the same word in our in our English way: the nature of the thing. Or it could mean a single extant thing, a person in the way that we speak of someone's nature, “that's my nature to act thus and so or to speak thus and so.”
Well here's the muddle. Then the non Chalcedonians continue to use the word to insist on the word on the word nature in this second sense and if you say and for them to speak of two nature's in Christ is [basically] to speak of two persons and here they recall the [individual] that St. Cyril wrote against at the third ecumenical council, the one only twenty years prior to Chalcedon, that is the Bishop of Constantinople, Nestorius. Now Nestorius--there is argument about whether he was really off or not but certainly his phrasing was ambiguous. Nestorius was someone who wanted to insist on God's transcendence. Therefore it made no sense for him to speak of, say Mary, as birth giver of God. She's the birth giver of the man Jesus. Hence the eternal God isn't or was never a baby so he bears the humanity of the Lord Jesus--she bears the humanity of the Lord Jesus with whom the Word of God the second person of the Trinity unites.
Now since Cyril of Alexandria objected strenuously to Nestorius and said, "how can you call her Christotokos birthgiver of Christ but not Theotokos? You're denying in effect the reality of the incarnation, that God truly became human in the Lord Jesus and when you denied that in effect you deny what we understand to be the nature of salvation itself which is our union with God through Christ, the true union with God." And so Cyril becomes the standard of Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Ephesus, that's the third ecumenical council. And then the non-Chalcedonians see Chalcedon as a betrayal of Cyril and our going back to Nestorius, because one person but in two natures, one hypostasis that was the hypostasis of the Word of God in two natures, but natures understood in this second sense as persons--or that that's how they see it at any rate.
So our Lord Jesus in their eyes according in the Chalcedonian definition is kind of like two peas in a single pod. you see the pod and the pod is one but they're actually two things, and they're two distinct things.
Now of course the defenders of Chalcedon, some of them some of them were very sympathetic to Nestorius in the early--especially
the first generation, and their defense of Chalcedon sounded to the objectors of Chalcedon much too much like Nestorius. So that leads to a breaking in communion.
I mentioned the Emperor Justinian who comes along 100 years after the Council of Chalcedon and Justinian is an emperor, so he is of course concerned with the fact that his empire is now divided and very seriously divided because effectively all of Egypt, a very important province, most of Syria and spreading up elsewhere in the Empire too - are
objecting to the definition of Chalcedon and and have broken communion with the imperial church. So Justinian's first concern as Emperor, he wants the United Empire and that means he has to have the United faith. how does he solve this? he calls the fifth ecumenical council to do so and what the fifth ecumenical council does in essence is say: look both Cyril's Miaphysis, one nature of God the Word incarnate, and Chalcedon's two natures in one person, can be understood as in harmony.
The conciliar formulae don't exactly put it that way, they put it negatively, they say: if you mean if you say one nature of God
the word incarnate and mean the humanity disappears, you're a heretic, you're anathema. And if you say one person in two natures and you mean two persons in Christ incarnate, you're anathema. What you must say rather is the person which is one in Christ is the second person of the Trinity, in whom the human nature--that is a human essence--is "inpersoned."
Now that should have solved the problem because it is essentially what the non-Chalcedonians believe. It didn't because of other factors.
[Firstly] the Emperors prior to Justinian—and Justinian himself later on when he realized his solution wasn't working— used force to try and bring about unity of faith, and force means blood. There was bloodshed in the 100 years between Justinian and the council of Chalcedon. So the non-Chalcedonians had their martyrs.
Second, who's right and who's wrong? It was Pope Leo of Rome who proposed the formula that Chalcedon enshrined in its definition. Well, for the non Chalcedonians, Pope Leo is a heretic. And on the other hand the great critic of Chalcedon, Bishop Severus of Antioch in the early years of the 6th century, is a hero and a saint in their reckoning and is officially anathematized, reckoned among the heretics by I think the sixth Council. Justinian avoids that, doesn't call names. He only calls Nestorius and Eutychius names, but he doesn't include any of the main non-Chalcedonian teachers That comes later. So one group's saint is another group's heretic, enemy. And in the intervening 1500 years this simply embeds itself.
And now for example, if you ask the monks in Mouth Athos—well many of them have expressed themselves in writing—what about the non-Chalcedonians, they say "let them recognize seven ecumenical councils" and someone like the late Pope Shenouda of Alexandria, the Coptic patriarch, said we only need three. We aren't doing your seven. Maybe we'll take six of the seven. But not Chalcedon. And there we are.
As I said they are terminological conservatives. They did not want to depart from the phrasing of Cyril of Alexandria, and they saw those who did so at least initially as heretics and Nestorians.
Now I don't think any who have studied the matter closely among them would hold that view. Among the Orthodox on the other hand, there's altogether too much reliance on the textbook phrasing and not a lot of careful thinking. Except during the 1960s—this was courtesy of the World Council of Churches. The World Council of Churches generally does us a great favor because it allows us to get together in ways that we don't do regularly otherwise, and in the case of the issue that we're talking about today, it enabled contacts between the Orthodox—the Eastern Orthodox—and the Oriental Orthodox, who at a certain point looked at each other—it was people like father Georges Florovsky who was active at the time, Fr. John Romanides, Father John Meyendorff among others who asked: what exactly is it that divide us?
And they held a series of colloquia over a space of 10, 15 years. I think it starts in the early 60s and they issue a kind of agreed statement by around late eighties and the records of these colloquia have been published in the Greek Orthodox Theological Review. If you want to look it up, all the papers are there in english. And what they arrived at, as a result of these discussions and mutual papers was, "Well, we don't really believe differently." Their common statement for example liberally deployed citations from the Fifth council under Justinian. As I said, I think he solved the problem back in the 6th century, and it's just no one was ready to to accept it so they ended up, "Okay we we believe the same about the Lord Jesus, so why can't we be together?"
Well, there we get into the issues that I raised—who is a saint, who's a heretic, how many councils are there, and maybe even more to the point who is the Patriarch of Alexandria, who is the Patriarch of Antioch. They're two candidates right for each, and in the case of the Armenians a certain nervousness about the immensity of the Russian church next door, certain I think concern that they be swallowed up in that, which the Russians have done to the Georgians when they incorporated Georgia into the empire at the beginning of 19th century.
And of course quite distinctive liturgies. I mean we Eastern Orthodox are used to, "well, the liturgy is the liturgy. It was the liturgy of John Chrysostom, the liturgy of St. Basil, the liturgy of the great church of Constantinople." It is our common, our common patrimony.
Well in the case of the non-Chalcedonians, just about all of them, but it's especially visible in the Armenians, the Syrians, the Copts and the Ethiopians, there's a lot, there IS a lot of influence. You don't feel totally at sea going to any of those churches, but it's different. It's not the same precisely—the same texts. The churches look a little different, not absolutely different but they look a little different.
I remember talking to a Greek theologian who wasn't aware that they had a different liturgy, or they would insist on having their own and not simply adopting ours. "No way, that's impossible actually, they have to worship like we worship."
So these things are what in effect divide us, not the substance of the faith.
Now, what can we do about it? I think that was one of your questions.
Arnold: Yeah, what do we do? What steps do we take? Baby steps or large steps.
+Alexander: Well you know locally in the Orthodox Church there are different reactions where these two live together and have lived together for centuries, as for example in the Patriarchate of Antioch there is rather a considerable—God knows now what Syria is like with the chaos afflicting it—but before the horrors descended there, there was in fact even inter communion, to a degree. Faithful who didn't have their own church in the village were not discouraged in any way by their [?] to avail themselves of the other church. Weddings are mutually recognized, and that was in fact worked out between the Copts and the Greeks in Alexandria too.
And here in our country some of us bishops are inclined to treat the non-Chalcedonians essentially like our own people. Now this isn't an answer, but in those local churches abroad there does appear to be, or did appear— goodness who knows, as I said, what's happening now with the chaos—there was a kind of effective to and fro that wasn'tblocked.
Now they they have their—especially in Ethiopia—they have their rigid folk too, those who insist no-no, these are Nestorians. We can't be in communion with them, they're heretics.
Just like the monks of Athos—not all of them because I've talked to a number who don't hold this view—but they published along these lines: "these people are heretics, they don't accept the seven councils. let
them submit to the to the stated faith of the church in the councils. how does one deal with that? well in effect, some of them, some of that you really can't deal with, or as a friend of mine put it in another context: there are some problems only death can solve.
What we need to do is see each other more, and talk to each other, and do things together. Visit each other. We should have Sunday school classes attending each other's liturgies, we should have clergy regularly meeting
with each other, and they do or did. I mean, now with the Orthodox, the Eastern Orthodox, don't even meet among themselves in most places on a regular basis.
And that of course has to be encouraged from on top, I don't see any
agreed statement— because we have an agreed statement—I don't see an agreed statement as sufficient. Just as we've lived apart from each other for 1500 years, although not entirely apart, as you can see the influences, especially from the Empire and the Imperial Church on all on all the
Oriental Orthodox. Some entirely apart from each other.
But the fault lies mainly with I think us, the Eastern Orthodox, just as the fault lay I think primarily on the side of the Imperial church, when for example they had unity talks with the Armenians back in the 11th century, I think it was. The Armenians and the Greeks came to an essential agreement on the faith and so one of the Armenians said
something–it might have been Saint Nerses the Graceful—said, "Well, okay so let's have communion."
"Wait a minute," said the Greeks. Then they raise the bar. "But you don't serve exactly like us. But you use unleavened bread, but you, but you ... but ... but ... but ... but .. and sort of obstacle obstacle obstacle obstacle and finally the Armenians say, "Well nuts to you. God bless you. We'll go our way and you go yours."
But it was the fault of the Byzantines. The primary fault was with the Byzantines. And I think that habit of thinking is too much still much with us. And rather than asking, "Well what do you believe? What is your faith?— as those people did in those colloquia that are published, that were
written in the sixties and seventies and eighties. They asked that. And the answer they got was, "Oh. Sounds like what I believe.
Arnold: Let me ask you this: you know being ... I started out as a Protestant and of course as a Protestant it's sola scriptura and the scriptures themselves are where you find ultimate truth, that's the one non-negotiable place where you can find ultimate truths, and then of course as you study that doctrine of Sola scriptura you find out it doesn't work out very well and then on my road to becoming Orthodox my understanding—and maybe you can enlighten me—but my understanding is that if we say that we ultimately follow the church which interprets the Scriptures, my understanding is that the ultimate place where we find truth is in the ecumenical councils, so the seven ecumenical councils are the binding, kind of Orthodox version of the Sola scriptura, that's the ... the Oracle, you know, so when you when you suggest that we need to--or when the whole concept of going from seven to three councils--or maybe there's something else besides ecumenical councils that are the ultimate way that we find truth. Help me out with that.
+Alexander: Well, as you just phrased it—and you used at one point I think the word "Oracle" didn't you?
+Alexander: I don't think it's helpful to think of the council's that way. In fact I think that can be a sort of trap. I think we must accept the seven councils as we have them as articulating the faith "Orthodoxly." But that doesn't mean necessarily that the faith others might hold who are not part of the
community of the seven councils—that faith may be identical, substantially
identical—that is identical in substance, in reality.
The councils provide us with a kind of precision for example that those decisions, those precisions, regarding those terms that I spoke of earlier. Well, there's a certain usefulness to that. It prevents confusions that exactly
arose and in fact acted to divide the church in the in the debates of the
fifth and sixth centuries, so that's good.
But to raise the precisions as it were to the level of the absolute bedrock—what makes us Orthodox Christians—isn't a formula, a verbal formula. It is the faith in God the Word made flesh and in our communion with God the Word made flesh through his body the church. That's the substance as I understand it and in that case I think there is the same
substance among them, the non- Chalcedonians.
So I'm not arguing for flexibility in the sense of tolerance of what's wrong
but maybe tolerance for a different and perhaps less precise way of articulating the faith, if insisting on our own way keeps us from communion.
I said at the beginning of my remarks these these people read for the most part the same Fathers. If you go to their monasteries like in Egypt or in Syria they're reading Anthony, they're reading Athanasius's life and Anthony. They're reading the sayings of the Desert Fathers In fact, they made their own collections of these or some variants that exists only in, say, Ethiopic or in Coptic but it's the same thing, it's the same substance.
Or your friends in Ethiopia who are excited by Russian, by Russian spiritual writers or some of the Copts I know--who I've heard of anyway--who are translating selections of the Philokalia into English.
That reminds me of the story of Matthew the poor, one of the great figures in the contemporary revival of the Coptic Church especially within monasticism. He was a pharmacist I think in Cairo in the early fifties who like the rich young man—because he was well-to-do and prosperous—heard the word of our Lord to sell everything you have, like St.
Anthony, sell everything you have, give it to the poor and come follow me, and so the young man does this and retires to a cave above the Nile armed with an Arabic translation of the scriptures and kind of eccentric English translation of St. Isaac the Syrian and the [?] Palmer selections from the Philokalia. [?]
He draws disciples more disciples more disciples of entry, they move into one of the near abandoned monasteries in [Skete], one of St. Macarius's monasteries, and the Egyptian, the Egyptian revival renewal is well on your way.
So it was the Philokalia and Isaac of Nineveh, together with the
scriptures that nourished him. How can one not see in that something not just inncommon but something fundamentally akin? They see our fathers as theirs, at least these ascetical writers. They're nourished from the same sources and they produce I would think similar results.
Arnold: Would you like to take a guess at why the Western Church as I said in one of those questions seems to be so much farther away from Eastern Orthodox Church, whereas the Oriental Orthodox seems to be so close. Why would that be?
+Alexander: Well. first of all, like us, the wellsprings of Oriental Orthodox spirituality—and I hope I don't generalize too much—but they are the monastic life, the ascetical tradition, just as with us. Orthodox spirituality is properly monastic spirituality.
not that we we who are not
monks have to go to a monastery to be
completely Orthodox but it's just that
the monasteries understood as a sort of
laboratories if you will the laboratories for
the most intense expression of the
Christian life. They're deliberately
constructed artifices if you will of the
church's tradition intended to provide
the the maximum possible support for the
integral Christian life and that's why
they're understood as exemplory. Well the
the Oriental Orthodox have the same
understanding. That's not the case
however in the West from probably
the rise of the Mendicant orders and
then the other orders the later
Middle Ages in the counter reform. There
are Catholics I understand who ... Father [?] speaks of his
grandmothers whose high places were the
great Benedictine abbys in France. But that's
not common among Catholics certainly not
among Catholics here in the US but I
think in in Western Europe to
monasticism is kind of a part and they
speak rather of spirituality in the
plural. Dominican spirituality, Franciscan spirituality, Jesuit
spirituality, Carmelite spirituality, this, that, and the
other, whereas we don't use the plural.
There's only one spirituality. it's only one
model. All are to have the same whether whether
whether the butcher or the monk or the
housewife. They're all to have the same
fundamental understanding of what it is
to live the Christian life. And if one falls
short, one is aware of falling short.
Palamas would not have had the kind of
arguments he had with Balaam
he wouldn't have had those
with Oriental Orthodox because they were
on the same page. That's your point.
I think so I think he would have had an
argument with some because Barlaam after
all was technically an Orthodox Christian.
So, I think the best among them would have recognized St. Gregory as a voice in the Tradition.
Let me ask you this I'm sure you've been very
careful with your words because you are
an archbishop and you know you've mentioned
that there's there's a going to be
people on Mount Athos who are very
critical of the Oriental Orthodox and
there's going to be pockets, but what is your
sense of the general tone across the
board of Eastern Orthodoxy on this issue—
generally favorable, generally skeptical
not even interested—
where do you think of people stand?
Well, I think mostly it's the last— not really interested
not worked up about it, not thinking about it.
in the way ... and Fr. John Meyendorff put it to me this way. He said, " They are to
most of us as we are to most of the
Catholics, kind of interesting fossils to
the side." And then not without a bit of patronization too—or more than a bit.
Well I don't think that that kind of
thing wins friends and affects union.
Thus your point that
interaction and just improving the
relationship and and spending time
together would be a major part towards
I don't see any other way. It's not going
to come down from on high. In a way you've already had that when the representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarch
other patriarchates, signed that agreed statement back in '89, I think it was.
I don't know if the Russians did, but they weren't "aginn it." [against it]
They said they had to look at it more carefully. But one doesn't get the sense among them within
that there's active hostility
with respect to it. I don't know that exists
anywhere among the church hierarchy but
there's also but there is I think very
much that that other thing that I just
spoke of, that kind of patronizing, "Well.
we'll accept the little brother if they
become you know they become just like us."
That won't do it. We have to have
more genuine empathy and respect and
that kind of thing only that comes about
only through prolonged and extensive
Well I will try to be a part of
the solution in that regard and we'll
see what the Holy Spirit does, how he
leads us in that.
I think we've covered a lot of the ground today. Thank you so much, Vladika.
have any parting thoughts or some things
you'd want to share here as we wrap up?
No. I'm done.
Well I really appreciate it. I think
you've really helped us quite a bit. Now
I'm going to go back and review a lot of
what you said and and may even before I
upload this podcast I may actually order
the I think it's the Greek Orthodox
Journal you said that has these
Greek Orthodox Theological Review.
Yeah I may
actually order those and kind of look
through them and kind of stuff and kind
of get up to snuff on this because I
want to get the technicals correct and
and then and and and put this together
but I think it's really important. I really
appreciate it. I imagine that when I send
this to of my contacts and people in
Ethiopia they're going to be very
encouraged that that there is a hierarch here who is affirming, who's
loving them and desirous—you know, we
might not be able to accomplish unity
overnight but we can certainly be
desirous of it, and I think they're going
to be thrilled with that, so thank you
very much. I hope so. Thank you. Bye bye.