"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Monday, 7 April 2014


Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev said about eight years ago in an interview:

"I would like to share one observation I made over my ten years of participation in the WCC and other inter-Christian dialogues. Today, the Christian world is more clearly divided into two groups. On one hand is the group of Churches which insist on the need to follow Church Tradition: this group includes, mainly, the Orthodox Churches, the pre-Chalcedonian Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. On the other end of the spectrum are those Protestant communities in which following Tradition was never the norm, in which there is a rapid liberalization of doctrine, of moral principles and church practice. The latter group includes in particular, the majority of Protestant communities of the North. The chasm between the “churches of Tradition” and the churches of a “liberal bent” is now so significant, and it is widening so quickly, that it is difficult for me to foresee how this “inter-Christian collegiality” can be preserved in the near future.

I want to look at what "the Orthodox Churches, the pre-Chalcedonian Churches and the Roman Catholic Church" have in common according to Catholic theology.   What implications can be drawn from the fact that these churches are "churches of Tradition".  This makes them, not only different in views from the Protestant churches, but also different in kind.

I shall examine this question from two points of view, the classical pre-Vatican II understanding of the "Church as a perfect society",  and the "eucharistic ecclesiology" of Vatican II and of the popes since Vatican II.


Yves Congar OP wrote:
We are convinced that the reform begun by St Leo IX (1040-54) and continued with vigour by St Gregory VII (1073-81) represents a decisive turning point from the point of view of ecclesiological doctrines in general and of the notion of authority in particular.   We know that this reform not only aimed, like all reforms, to purify the Church....but also to deliver the Church from the power of laymen.   It aimed to rid itself of its identification with political society, an identification indicated by the word Ecclesia itself which meant both the mystical Body and the Empire with no distinction made between them.   In short, it meant Christian society.   To bring this about, Gregory VII claimed for the Church the completely autonomous and sovereign system of rights proper to a spiritual societyThe foundation of the ecclesiastical edifice was the pope whose authority emanated directly from a positive divine institution.   Gregory VII claimed the sovereign rights of this authority not only over the Church but also over kings and their kingdoms.

At first it was a strategy, a way of keeping order in the Church in the midst of political chaos..  One indication of that is St Peter Damian (1007-1072) , born in Ravenna with its wonderful Byzantine churches and a Camaldolese hermit, whose writings for monks could have been written  by one of the Greek Fathers, and who obviously had an organic, sacramental view of the Church.   Yet he was a canonist and one of the main architects of the Church interpreted primarily in terms of jurisdiction.   He clearly saw no conflict between them, holding both simultaneously, but regarding the latter as necessary for Church reform.

To show you what was meant by the Church as a perfect society and its implications I shall give you a passage from New Advent.    The fact that it comes from a modern internet publication shows that there are still Catholics whose understanding has in no way been influenced by Vatican II:
 The Apostolicity of the Church consists in its identity with the body which Christ established on the foundation of the Apostles, and which He commissioned to carry on His work. No other body save this is the Church of Christ. The true Church must be Apostolic in doctrine and Apostolic in mission. Since, however, it has already been shown that the gift of infallibility was promised to the Church, it follows that where there is Apostolicity of mission, there will also be Apostolicity of doctrine. Apostolicity of mission consists in the power of Holy orders and the power of jurisdiction derived by legitimate transmission from the Apostles. Any religious organization whose ministers do not possess these two powers is not accredited to preach the Gospel of Christ. For "how shall they preach", asks the Apostle, "unless they be sent?" (Romans 10:15). It is Apostolicity of mission which is reckoned as a note of the Church. No historical fact can be more clear than that Apostolicity, if it is found anywhere, is found in the Catholic Church. In it there is the power of Holy orders received by Apostolic succession. In it, too, there is Apostolicity of jurisdiction; for history shows us that the Roman bishop is the successor of Peter, and as such the centre of jurisdiction. Those prelates who are united to the Roman See receive their jurisdiction from the pope, who alone can bestow it. No other Church is Apostolic. The Greek church, it is true, claims to possess this property on the strength of its valid succession of bishops. But, by rejecting the authority of the Holy See, it severed itself from the Apostolic College, and thereby forfeited all jurisdiction. Anglicans make a similar claim. But even if they possessed valid orders, jurisdiction would be wanting to them no less than to the Greeks.

In this paradigm, the Catholic Church is seen as a world-wide society, held together by the authority of the Pope,   the only society in which the sacraments are celebrated legitimately.

  It is the universal jurisdiction of the Pope and not the sacraments that unifies because   sacraments can be validly performed both inside and outside the Church as long as the individual has the power to perform them and the recipient to receive them, though they can only be legitimately performed under papal jurisdiction.  

Following this reasoning, "the Orthodox Churches and the pre-Chalcedonian Churches" are not real churches at all because, although they have apostolic succession in so far as there are individuals with the sacramental "powers" of bishops and priests, what really holds a church together, what makes a church a church, is jurisdiction which can only be received from the Pope.

   I do not believe Rome was thinking of the Eastern churches, nor were they the target of those who first explained the unity of the Church in terms of papal jurisdiction. There are many occasions down the ages in which popes and other Catholic authorities have recognised Eastern churches as churches, but also times when their ecclesial reality has been ignored. 

  The theory of a perfect society took the shape it did as the Latin Church battled it out with western civil authorities, who were much more problematic, and of whom they were much more aware.   European emperors, kings and barons were often semi-civilized , semi-Christian, self-seeking warmongers who often tried to mould the Church to serve their own ends, and who often opposed much needed reforms.   Local churches strove to put themselves under immediate papal supervision and sought the privilege of having their bishops appointed by the pope because this protected them from being bullied by the local war lord who liked to use ecclesiastical positions as a way to give their younger sons something to do, or as a cheap way to reward services rendered to them by their followers; and the Church had to strengthen its institutional ties so that the frequent wars  and quarrels would not spill out into schisms.

  Fortunately, the Church could play on the tremendous respect that all, even the semi-literate lords, had for Roman Law.   They explained the Church in a language that both Church and State had in common.   In doing so, they brought about a secularization of their understanding of the Church and church authority because its unity was explained in terms of the Roman legal tradition which was a secular rather than a Christian reality.

Secular jurisdiction and every earthly system of law depends on power to back it up; and it depends on people who have the right to exercise that power.   In its secularised form, much emphasis in the Church was given to the powers of popes, bishops and priests, and their rights to use these powers.   

In New Testament and patristic thinking, all functions of the Church work sacramentally in the sense that they are charged with the Holy Spirit who demands humble obedience from the minister that permits Him to work in and through him or her.  A Christian always has people over him that he must obey; because only in that way can he imitate Christ. The humbler the Christian's obedience, the more effectively can Christ work in and through him.   Christian power needs humility in the person exercising it: worldly power needs the ability to use force.   This basic difference between Christian power and worldly power became obscured.   Hence, Ives Congar OP wrote about the papal title "Vicarius Christi":

  1. The use of this title has continued but its meaning has changed.   Its older sense in Catholic theology was that of a visible representation of a transcendent or heavenly power which was actually active in its earthly representative.   The context and atmosphere surrounding this idea were those of the actuality of the action of God, Christ and his saints working in their representative.   This is a very sacramental, iconological concept, linked to the idea of constant "presences" of God and the celestial powers in our earthly sphere.   It is this quality of actuality and of a vertical descent and a presence which has its source in Luke 10: 16, "Qui vos audit, me audit; qui vos spernit, me spernit."

All these texts and titles lost their iconographical interpretation in favour of a legalist interpretation: the pope, instead of being an icon of Christ who is present in his papal activity, a role that demands humble obedience to Christ on his part to be effective, as well as a humble recognition of and respect for Christ's role in others and  is summed up in Pope Gregory the Great's chosen papal title "Servus Servorum Dei", under the new emphasis on the Church as an institution, the pope became a sovereign in spiritual things, in exactly the same way as the emperor was a sovereign in earthly things, the same kind of authority demanding the same kind of obedience in Christ's name; and the force that he wielded was the power of the keys.From being an icon of Christ's presence, the pope was reduced to being the legal representative in Christ's absence.  It is a lesser dignity, but one that does not depend on his humble obedience to Christ in order to function: his action is legally valid or not; and his moral situation has little to do with it.   Only that kind of authority would allow him to stand up to the Emperor.   However, it was at a cost: the cost of distancing Christ from the day to day life of the Church.  It was as though Christ ascended into heaven, leaving behind an authority in his place, supernatural in origin but exercised in a completely wordly way.

The same secularised concept of power influenced our understanding of the priest when he presides at Mass and the other sacraments in loco Christi.  For St Thomas Aquinas, echoing Tradition, the priest is the instrumental cause of the consecration of the bread and wine at Mass.   If you use a pen to write a letter, you are the author and the pen is the instrumental cause.   It cannot write the letter by itself, but needs the presence of its user to wield it. When we think of Christ's Real Presence in the Mass, we think automatically of his presence in the bread and wine, but not his presence in the priest presiding, in the reader in his act of reading, in the community in its praying and singing, all this is edited out of our thinking. Indeed a priest can wield his priestly power as though it is his own, even consecrating a crate of champagne outside of Mass, just by using the right words.  A bishop can ordain anyone he likes, for whatever motive, in whatever circumstance, even if he himself has apostatised.   The concept of the bishop and priest as icons of Christ's presence, of instrumental causes, where Christ is the real celebrant of the sacraments, has been forgotten in favour of a concept in which bishops and priests possess a supernatural power they can use independently of Christ's will in spite of the fact that he is meant to be the main cause.    This is only possible because the sacraments have been abstracted from the liturgy, their proper context, and their proper understanding has been reduced to an understanding of their "Matter" and "Form" the prayer of the Church, and examined in abstract as matter and form. the double fact that they are actions of Christ in the Church and actions of the whole Church in Christ through the ministry of the priest or bishop has been forgotten in favour of an exercise of sacramental powers individually possessed by the minister and over which he has complete control.


I have said that St Peter Damian held both the institutional interpretation of the Church and the organic, sacramental interpretation at the same time; and there were representatives of the sacramental, patristic view even in Vatican I.    There is simply too much evidence in Tradition that ecclesial unity springs from the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.  For St Thomas Aquinas, the res sacramenti, the effect of the Eucharist is the "unity of the Church"; but, too often, this was treated by university professors when teaching on the Eucharist, but its implications were ignored when they taught about the Church.  Many people simply accepted both the "perfect society" paradigm and the organic, sacramental one without comparing the two.  Some did though, especially in France before and after World War II where theologians used "eucharistic ecclesiology" to criticise "perfect society" ecclesiology under Orthodox influence. To this second paradigm we shall now turn.


The catholicity of the Church has its roots in the Incarnation because, as Roger Schutz, Prior of Taize, used to say, "Christ is Communion."   If the Father sent the Son, and the Son became incarnate, it was the special function of the Holy Spirit to unite Christ to all, across time and place, who shared with him a human nature and uniting in himself heaven and earth.   Only this enabled him to bear all our sins and all our sufferings, making him our saviour.

A king in the Middle East was so united to his people that, when he was honoured, they were all honoured, when he was  insulted, all were offended, he could speak on behalf of all, and when he was punished for his crimesit was perfectly natural to punish his people as well.  He was a kind of "collective personality" who stood for his nation.   This was a cultural thing, but in Christ it was more than physically real.   From the very beginning of the Incarnation, he was united to all by the very reality of God. 

  Thus he was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, already united by the Spirit to the whole of mankind and, in particular, to all who would be identified with him by Baptism.   Thus the Blessed Virgin became, not just the Mother of all the living and Mother of the Church; she became the Church, the outward physical expression of the new reality, mankind in so far as it is united to her Son who was in her womb.  Thus, by examining the  Annunciation scene, we can learn much about the nature of the Church.

The angel Gabriel appears to Mary, a young girl in Nazareth, who is married to Joseph but not yet living with him, probably because of her age.   The angel tells her that she is to become the mother of the Messiah.   
"How can this be, I have no relationship with a man?" asks Mary.   
God is giving her a vocation that is humanly impossible without a relationship with a man.  The angel's answer is very important for those who want to understand something of the Church.
"The Holy Spirit shall come upon you and the Most High shall cover you with his shadow, and for this reason, your Son shall be called "Son of God"."Mary replied, "I am the Lord's slave.   May it be done to me according to his will."

In this passage we see the basic structure of salvation.   Mary receives a vocation infinitely above her capabilities, one which can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit working through her humble obedience to achieve in her the will of God.  St Luke's "I am the Lord's slave, may it be done to me according to his will" can be replaced by "Amen": it is her humble assent.   In order to become Mother of God, in order to have that relationship with the Blessed Trinity that the Church would enoy later, she need to receive the Holy Spirit in humble obedience and to do what was expected of her.  Thus her vocation of motherhood has a divine dimension that was essential even to her natural existence as mother.   

In the Gospel of St John she continues to live out that vocation, and it is at the foot of the cross that she was mandated to become what was implicit in her role as Mother of God,  Mother of all the living, the New Eve.

Thus too, the Church became what it is with the coming down of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and her basic rule is of humble acceptance of the Spirit and obedience to Christ.  It  is in the liturgy in general and in the Eucharist in particular that the Church becomes what she is: there is the coming down of the Holy Spirit at the obedient prayer of the Church in which Christ prays on our behalf through the words of the priest, the Church identifying itself with Christ's sacrifice; and all are taken up into this Mystery when the priest, messenger of the Lord, declares to each communicant, "The Body of Christ", to which comes the reply, "I am the slave of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word," or "Amen".

Of all things, the liturgy is the product of the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church, and it has both divine and human dimensions, where the human role is to humbly obey and the divine role is to enable, just as it was with Mary.   Hence, Pius XI wrote that the liturgy is the primary organ of the ordinary magisterium of the Church.   Vatican II went further:
10. Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper.

The liturgy in its turn moves the faithful, filled with "the paschal sacraments," to be "one in holiness" [26]; it prays that "they may hold fast in their lives to what they have grasped by their faith" [27]; the renewal in the Eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire. From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the Eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way.

Vatican II was using a paradigm very different from the "perfect society" paradigm we have already looked at.  In the latter, the Church is united by jurisdiction and is the context for any legitimate celebration of the liturgy. Pius IX is supposed to have said, in the spirit of Louis XIV, "I am Tradition."  In the Vatican II understanding, it is the celebration of the liturgy which is the source of all the powers necessary for the world-wide society to be formed.  In the "perfect society" model, the starting point is the universal Church, and local churches are mere parts of the whole, while; while in the Vatican II model, we must start with the local celebration of the liturgy: the source of universal unity is to be found in the profound identity of all Eucharists with each other, because in each is the fullness of redemption and each local church receives the same Christ whole and entire.    Each celebration of the Eucharist is a manifestation of the whole Church in heaven and on earth, and the priest is the voice of Christ,  who prays in the liturgy of heaven, in the liturgy of the Church, and the liturgy that takes place within us when Christ is present in our souls.   Jesus shares  his prayerful humility with the angels and saints in heaven, with the Church on earth and with each of us in our interior life, accepting the gift of the Holy Spirit from the Father in the name of creatures and giving us a share both in his prayer and in his understanding of revelation.   Hence, wherever the Eucharist is faithfully celebrated, there is the Tradition that has been passed down from the Apostles; and this Tradition comes alive in all whose faith is in accordance with what is celebrated in the Eucharist.

It follows, as Pope Benedict XVI made clear, that an old liturgy cannot be simply abolished and a new one substituted.    Just as there are various forms of the one Gospel, and we would be incomplete without all four, so the liturgy has taken different forms in the course of history, reflecting the different concrete histories of the churches that trace their origins to apostolic times.   Each of them, different though they are,   is the product of the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church.   All theologians whose understanding of the Church and of the Eucharist is limited to an understanding of their own liturgy and of their own history, even if they are perfectly right in their understanding, need to catholicise, broaden, deepen their understanding by digesting the other forms of Tradition.   Also, where conflict has broken out and we hold exclusively different answers to certain disputed questions, we must be very careful not to reject out of hand the other's objection.   They are not Protestants who have rejected Tradition in favour of Sola Scriptura.   While we believe that our tradition  expresses an important truth, their objection also has come from a tradition that is continually being rejuvenated by contact with its source in the Eucharist.  It is a part of the humble obedience expected of us as Christians to seek the truth behind their objections, not only for their benefit, but for ours.   The very fact that they object should indicate that while the Holy Spirit has enlightened us on a certain truth, it is possible that we have some things wrong, and that the Holy Spirit wants to teach us more.

Where does this "eucharistic theology come from?   Well, there was a Russian Orthodox theologian called Nicolas Afanassiev (1893-1966) who belonged to the Russian diaspora  and who taught from 1932 till his death in 1966 at the Institut Saint-Serge in Paris.  In Paris he attracted the attention of both Catholic and Orthodox theologians and was personally invited to Vatican II as an observer, took part in many discussions and was quoted openly in the speeches of the Fathers of the Council.  He influenced the teaching on the liturgy, on the role of the Holy Spirit, and on the local church.  All these bear his stamp.   

I met him once at St Serge, during a Liturgy week that was held every year, where Catholic theologians met Orthodox.  I had read an essay by him, "THE CHURCH WHICH RESIDES IN LOVE", before I met him.

He says that there are two basic ecclesiological paradigms, the universal and the eucharistic.   The first has been embraced by Catholic doctrine, and is represented in history by St Cyprian. Normal Orthodox teaching also adopts this paradigm; though, while Catholic teaching carries it to its logical conclusion by having a Pope, thus enabling the universal Church to act as one, the Orthodox reject the Pope and suffer the consequences by being famously unable to coordinate its act on a world-wide basis.   He sums up the characteristics of the universal type as follows:
According to universal ecclesiology, the Church is a single organic whole, including in itself all church units of any kind, especially those headed by bishops.   The organic whole is the Body of Christ or, to return to Catholic theological terms, the Mystical Body of Christ....Usually the church units are regarded as parts of the universal Church....The basic principles of the world-wide theory of the Church were formulated by Cyprian of Carthage...All the local churches are the one and only Body of Christ, but the empirical Church is the sum of its separate parts: ecclesia por totum mundum in multa membra divisa.   The  Church is one because the "throne of Peter is one"...every bishop is St Peter's successor, but only in so far as he is part of the episcopate Episcopatus unus est, cuius a singulis in solidum pars tenetur.  Just as the Church of Christ is divided into many members throughout the world, so the episcopate is expanded into a multiplicity of many bishops united in concord.  According to Cyprian, every bishop occupies the throne of Peter, but the see of Rome is Peter's throne par excellence.   The Bishop of Rome is the direct heir of Peter, whereas the others are heirs only indirectly, and sometimes only by the mediation of Rome.   Hence Cyprian's insistence that the Church of Rome is the root and matrix of the Catholic Church...The see of Rome was for him ecclesia principalis unde unitas sacerdotalis exorta est.  

 This pattern of universal ecclesiology became general in East as well as in the West.   Afanassieff writes:
In the Russian ecclesiological system of out time, the episcopal church (the diocese) forms one part of the autocephalous Russian Church.   The Moscow Council of 1917-18 decided that "the diocese is defined as one part of the Russian Orthodox Church, when governed by a bishop according to canon law.
 Later, Afanassieff argues that the logic of the universal system requires a universal head, and that most of the arguments against the papacy by those who share the view that a diocese is part of the Church are illogical.   However, the Orthodox instinct, even without realizing it is in favour of a eucharistic ecclesiology, where the Catholic Church is identified with the eucharistic assembly in each place.

This means that each local bishop under its bishop is the physical manifestation of the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church"; and, just as each consecrated host is Christ, and all the consecrated hosts in the whole world are Christ, neither more nor less, each eucharistic assembly is the body of Christ, and its unity with every other eucharistic assembly is one of identity, each and all together being the body of Christ.

If each eucharistic assembly is Christ's body, he argues, then no one can have power over it, because no one can have power over Christ.   The only primacy possible is one not based on power.   The primacy that St Irenaeus accorded to Rome in the second century was one of witness.   It is possible for local eucharistic assemblies (or local churches) to deviate and thus cease to be identical to the others.   A guide they can always follow is that of Rome, because it was founded by SS Peter and Paul, and because it is in touch with Christianity world-wide.   If a local church is identical in belief and Christian life to what happens in the Roman church, then it is identical to the rest and, therefore, a manifestation of the Catholic Church in one place.

Afanassieff quotes considerably from St Ignatius of Antioch and it is this saint who gives the essay its title: "The Church which presides in love."   When St Paul says to the Corinthians, "You are the body of Christ," he is addressing a local church.   In fact, the word "church" normally means the local church, which is also the "body of Christ".   All Christians in heaven and on earth are united in each eucharistic celebration; the visible community being like the tip of an iceberg, while the rest of the Church is invisible.   Afanassieff writes:
When the Apostle Paul wrote to tell the Corinthians that they were the Body of Christ, he surely could not have helped thinking of the liturgical formula, "This is my Body," which he quotes in the same epistle.....When the Eucharist is celebrated, the bread becomes the Body of Christ, and by the bread the partakers become the Body of Christ.... "For as much as the loaf is one, we are one body, many though we be; for we are all partakers in the one loaf." The close tie between the loaf of bread and the Body of Christ comes out very clearly here. 


Of course, if that conclusion was the inevitable conclusion of his premise that the Church in its fullness exists because of the Eucharist which contains its fullness, then it would have been put to one side.   However, in spite of its shortcomings, this gave an exciting new paradigm by which Orthodox and Catholic theologians could reach a better understanding of the Church and could even come to understand one another.

It seems that his teaching needed to be revised. These are a few questions that needed an answer. What if St Ignatius and St Cyprian were not teaching  rival doctrines on the Church, but were merely responding to a different set of problems?   What if it is possible to understand St Cyprian in the light of St Ignatius and vice versa?  Can the empirical reality of the Church be dismissed so summarily as irrelevant to the theological question? Is not the empirical a dimension of reality, even ecclesial reality? If Afanassieff's teaching on the autonomy of the local church were carried to its logical conclusion, would we not end up with a congregationalist ecclesiology rather than a Catholic or Orthodox one?  Has he really established the necessity of bishops or showed how they can have power over parishes where the Eucharist is celebrated?

Perhaps the greatest name to take up the torch of eucharistic ecclesiology on the Orthodox side has been John Zizioulas, once a Professor of Systematic Theology at Glasgow University, now Metropolitan of Pergamon in Greece.  He is a friend of Pope Benedict and is much admired by Pope Francis.

To get a feel of his theology here is a short passage:
One of the peculiarities of St Basil's teaching, compared with that of St Athanasius and certainly of the Western Fathers is that he seems to be rather unhappy with the notion of substance as an ontological category and tends to replace it... with koinonia.   Instead of speaking of the unity of God in terms of His one Nature, he prefers to speak of it in terms of the communion of persons: communion is for Basil an ontological category.   The nature of God is communion.
In ecclesiology, all this can be applied to the relationship between the local and the universal Church.   There is one Church as there is one God.   But the expression of this one Church is the communion of the many local Churches.  Communion and oneness coincide in ecclesiology.
He agrees with Afanassieff that each Church is the whole Church in one place and that the fundamental unity of each Church with the others is identity, because all partake of the same Eucharist; but he disagrees that each is autonomous because he applies to each and all the category of communion: they can only exist as local churches because they are in communion with the others, communion being a fundamentally ontological category.   Hence the need for synodality, this arising out of the nature of the Church, internally as each local Church and externally as being "churches-in-communion".  He also argue that synodality requires a "protos", a primate who can call a synod together and who acts as its centre of unity.   He quotes canon 34 of  the Apostolic Canons
  The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account to him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent. But each may do those things only which concerns his own parish and the country places which belong to it. But neither let him, who is the first, do anything without the consent of all, for so there will be unanimity, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.
 This is true at every level because communion is the fundamental category by which all church functions can be judged.   He hold out the possibility of the necessity for the papacy in Orthodox ecclesiology, but not the kind that acts alone, above communion.   As it stands, the Vatican I definition where  it is stated about papal use of infallibility "Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable" must be rejected.   This goes completely against the spirit of Article 34 in the Apostolic Canons and against the nature of the Church as fundamentally communion, flowing, as it does, from our partaking of the Eucharist.   He says that, by the power of the Holy Spirit:
The whole Church, the Catholic Church was present and incarnate in every eucharistic community.   Each eucharistic community was, therefore, in full unity with the rest by virtue not of an external, superimposed structure, but of the whole Christ represented in each of them.   The bishops as heads of these communities come together in synods only expressed what Ignatius, in spite of - or perhaps because of - his eucharistic ecclesiology wrote once, "the bishops who are in the extremes of the earth are in the mind of Christ."   Thanks to a eucharistic vision of the Catholic Church" the problem of the relationship between the "one catholic Church" in the world and the "catholic Churches" in the various local places was resolved apart from any consideration of the local Church being incomplete.
...Another fundamental consideration is that no ministry in the Church can be understood outside the context of community.   This should not be explained in terms if representativeness and delegation of authority, for these terms being basically juridical finally lead to a separation of the ordained person from the community: to act on behalf of the community is to act outside it because it means to act in its place. ...There is no ministry that can act outside or above the community.

If Metropolitan Zizioulas is right, then this fascination of the West for legal terms and thinking cannot help but distort our understanding of Christianity.
1) To have a better understanding of the role of the Pope we must express our faith in non-legal language, in terms if communion.   
2)  We must recognise that the fullness of Catholicism becomes ours through our participation in the Eucharist.
3)  It follows that other churches, like the Orthodox churches, the Oriental Orthodox churches and the Assyrian Church are "true and proper churches of orthodox faith" and are also participators in the fullness of Catholicism because Christ is the fullness of Catholicism.  The Mass is Christ, and the Mass is the Church.
4)   This makes it even more necessary to obey Christ and become one, because we are one.  However, this step is one on which we do not agree.  However, the correct answer lies deep within the Tradition of each one of us.  In finding agreement, we are learning about our own Tradition, and the objections of the other churches correspond to problems we find in our own churches.
5)  Metropolitan Zizioulas is a model in this regard. 

by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
This is a repeat, but it belongs here.

Let us go back and look at developments in the pre-Conciliar era. Reflection on the Mystical Body of Christ marked the first phase of the Church's interior re-discovery; it began with St Paul and led to placing in the foreground the presence of Christ and the dynamics of what is alive (in Him and us). Further research led to a fresh awareness. Above all, more than anyone else, the great French theologian Henri de Lubac in his magnificent and learned studies made it clear that in the beginning the term "corpus mysticum" referred to the Eucharist. For St Paul and the Fathers of the Church the idea of the Church as the Body of Christ was inseparably connected with the concept of the Eucharist in which the Lord is bodily present and which He gives us His Body as food. This is how a Eucharistic ecclesiology came into existence.

What do we mean today by "Eucharistic ecclesiology"? I will attempt to answer this question with a brief mention of some fundamental points. The first point is that Jesus' Last Supper could be defined as the event that founded the Church. Jesus gave His followers this Liturgy of Death and Resurrection and at the same time He gave them the Feast of Life. In the Last Supper he repeats the covenant of Sinai—or rather what at Sinai was a simple sign or prototype, that becomes now a complete reality: the communion in blood and life between God and man. Clearly the Last Supper anticipates the Cross and the Resurrection and presupposes them, otherwise it would be an empty gesture. This is why the Fathers of the Church could use a beautiful image and say that the Church was born from the pierced side of the Lord, from which flowed blood and water. When I state that the Last Supper is the beginning of the Church, I am actually saying the same thing, from another point of view. This formula means that the Eucharist binds all men together, and not just with one another, but with Christ; in this way it makes them "Church". At the same time the formula describes the fundamental constitution of the Church: the Church exists in Eucharistic communities. The Church's Mass is her constitution, because the Church is, in essence, a Mass (sent out: "missa"), a service of God, and therefore a service of man and a service for the transformation of the world.

The Mass is the Church's form, that means that through it she develops an entirely original relationship that exists nowhere else, a relationship of multiplicity and of unity. In each celebration of the Eucharist, the Lord is really present. He is risen and dies no more. He can no longer be divided into different parts. He always gives Himself completely and entirely. This is why the Council states: "This Church of Christ is truly present in all legitimate local communities of the faithful which, united with their pastors, are themselves called Churches in the New Testament. For in their locality these are the new People called by God, in the Holy Spirit and with great trust (cf. 1 Thes. 1,5).... In these communities, though frequently small and poor, or living in the diaspora, Christ is present, and in virtue of His power there is brought together one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church" (Lumen Gentium, n. 26). This means that the ecclesiology of local Churches derives from the formulation of the Eucharistic ecclesiology. This is a typical feature of Vatican II that presents the internal and sacramental foundation of the doctrine of collegiality about which we will speak later.

For a correct understanding of the Council's teaching, we must first look more closely at what exactly it said. Vatican II was aware of the concerns of both Orthodox and Protestant theology and integrated them into a more ample Catholic understanding. In Orthodox theology the idea of Eucharistic ecclesiology was first expressed by exiled Russian theologians in opposition to the pretensions of Roman centralism. They affirmed that insofar as it possesses Christ entirely, every Eucharistic community is already, in se, the Church. Consequently, external unity with other communities is not a constitutive element of the Church.

Therefore, they concluded that unity with Rome is not a constitutive element of the Church. Such a unity would be a beautiful thing since it would represent the fullness of Christ to the external world, but it is not essential since nothing would be added to the totality of Christ. The Protestant understanding of the Church was moving in the same direction. Luther could no longer recognize the Spirit of Christ in the universal Church; he directly took that Church to be an instrument of the anti-Christ. Nor could he see the Protestant State Churches of the Reformation as Churches in the proper sense of the word. They were only social, political entities necessary for specific purposes and dependent on political powers—nothing more. According to Luther the Church existed in the community. Only the assembly that listens to the Word of God in a specific place is the Church. He replaced the word "Church" with "community" (Gemeinde). Church became a negative concept.

If we go back now to the Council text certain nuances become evident. The text does not simply say, "The Church is entirely present in each community that celebrates the Eucharist", rather it states: "This Church of Christ is truly present in all legitimate local communities of the faithful which, united with their pastors, are themselves called Churches". Two elements here are of great importance: to be a Church the community must be "legitimate"; they are legitimate when they are "united with their pastors". What does this mean? In the first place, no one can make a Church by himself. A group cannot simply get together, read the New Testament and declare: "At present we are the Church because the Lord is present wherever two or three are gathered in His name". The element of "receiving" belongs essentially to the Church, just as faith comes from "hearing" and is not the result of one's decision or reflection. Faith is a converging with something I could neither imagine nor produce on my own; faith has to come to meet me. We call the structure of this encounter, a "Sacrament". It is part of the fundamental form of a sacrament that it be received and not self-administered. No one can baptize himself. No one can ordain himself. No one can forgive his own sins. Perfect repentance cannot remain something interior—of its essence it demands the form of encounter of the Sacrament. This too is a result of a sacrament's fundamental structure as an encounter [with Christ]. For this reason communion with oneself is not just an infraction of the external provisions of Canon Law, but it is an attack on the innermost nature of a sacrament. That a priest can administer this unique sacrament, and only this sacrament, to himself is part of the mysterium tremendum in which the Eucharist involves him. In the Eucharist, the priest acts "in persona Christi", in the person of Christ [the Head]; at the same time he represents Christ while remaining a sinner who lives completely by accepting Christ's Gift.

One cannot make the Church but only receive her; one receives her from where she already is, where she is really present: the sacramental community of Christ's Body moving through history. It will help us to understand this difficult concept if we add something: "legitimate communities". Christ is everywhere whole. This is the first important formulation of the Council in union with our Orthodox brothers. At the same time Christ is everywhere only one, so I can possess the one Lord only in the unity that He is, in the unity of all those who are also His Body and who through the Eucharist must evermore become it. Therefore, the reciprocal unity of all those communities who celebrate the Eucharist is not something external added to Eucharistic ecclesiology, but rather its internal condition: in unity here is the One. This is why the Council recalls the proper responsibility of communities, but excludes any self-sufficiency. The Council develops an ecclesiology in which being Catholic, namely being in communion with believers in all places and in all times, is not simply an external element of an organizational form, it represents grace coming from within and is at the same time a visible sign of the grace of the Lord who alone can create unity by breaching countless boundaries.+++++


Hence, going back to our original question, "What do the Orthodox churches, the Oriental Orthodox churches and the Catholic Church have in common, despite the ravages brought about by schism?    Participation in the fullness of Christianity which is the eucharistic Christ, the guidance of the Holy Spirit invoked in the Eucharist; a history that goes back to the Apostles, as well as participation in Tradition in which we will find the solution to our problem of schism.

Finally, what happens to the ecclesial paradigm of the Church as a perfect society?   Do we simply throw it out of the window?   But it too, for all its limitations, is part of Tradition in the West.   More, it is with this ecclesiology that the Vatican I definitions pre-supposed.  We must be true to Tradition, to all of it.   Of course, this theory was developed to protect the Church from a Catholic civil society in chaos.  It therefore has aspects  which do not make sense outside that context.   No one expects the Papal claim to de-throne kings should be upheld, even if a lot of popes believed it was among their God-given powers.   We shall probably have to change the language which is dated.   What Vatican II did is what Pope Benedict XVI did about the old form of the Mass: it simply put that view side by side with the eucharistic ecclesiology and left it to the ongoing Tradition to solve the problems related to it.  Neither a council nor a pope is master of Tradition, because Tradition is the product of the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church.  The basic requirement for infallibility of either pope or council is fidelity to Tradition.  And when Tradition hasn't the answer, both pope and council have to wait until Tradition comes up with one.   Neither is a substitute for Tradition.

Pope Benedict again:

"The Christian faith can never be separated from the soil of sacred events, from the choice made by God, who wanted to speak to us, to become man, to die and rise again, in a particular place and at a particular time. . . . The Church does not pray in some kind of mythical omnitemporality. She cannot forsake her roots. She recognizes the true utterance of God precisely in the concreteness of its history, in time and place: to these God ties us, and by these we are all tied together. The diachronic aspect, praying with the Fathers and the apostles, is part of what we mean by rite, but it also includes a local aspect, extending from Jerusalem to Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople. Rites are not, therefore, just the products of inculturation, however much they may have incorporated elements from different cultures. They are forms of the apostolic Tradition and of its unfolding in the great places of the Tradition." (163/4 The Spirit of the Liturgy)

The 2nd Vatican Council is also an event within this Tradition. This means that the post-conciliar liturgy must be interpreted in the light of the Tradition of which it is a relatively new expression. It also means that the pope does not have the power simply to abolish a form of liturgy that has been the norm for many hundreds of years,n nor to abolish the new rite, however much he may prefer the old..; The pope is the guardian of Tradition,not its master. To use Cardinal Ratzinger’s metaphor, the pope is like a gardener who has to respect the laws of botany, not a mechanic who can construct what he likes as long as it works. He has written:

"After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not "manufactured" by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity. . . . The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition."(165/6 The Spirit of the Liturgy)

The Church is a sacramental organism, a living process that develops according to its own inherent laws; and these have to be respected by whoever is in charge, just as much as by those who obey him. The Church is not a mechanism nor is its basic structure the product of mere legislation. Therefore, those in charge of the Church on earth cannot simply re-construct it at will using their legal authority. The Church, far from being the “perfect society” of the conservatives or the “liberal society” of the progressives, is the most imperfect of human societies because it can only function by the power of the Spirit who is outside its control. It needs and has a proper juridical system, but this system is at the service of the Spirit who requires the obedience of faith, both from those who legislate and enforce and from those who obey. Jurisdiction has no power over Tradition and must always act within it. I believe that this is the reason why the Pope did not consult the bishops when he gave general permission for the use of the old Latin rite: he believed that the attempt to block its use was as beyond his and their authority as it is beyond the authority of the Anglican Synod to introduce into the Church female bishops and priests. 

The Anglican Synod claims more authority than the pope, but no more authority than those that want the Vatican to abolish outright the old Mass, or those "conservatives" who want to abolish the Misa Nova.   For both Anglicans and Catholic liberal progressives, law and not Tradition has the last word.  For the Catholic Church of Ratzinger, as well as for the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, Tradition and not law has the last word. To pass the measure on women bishops through synod the Anglicans show that they have a ‘lower’ doctrine of the relationship between the structure of the Church and of Tradition. It is not enough to say as the Archbishop of Canterbury did, that there is nothing in Scripture strong enough to impede the introduction of women bishops and priests. In a Catholic view of Tradition, the understanding that the Church has gained down the ages of a particular biblical text and the implications the Church has drawn from that reading form part of any full exegisis of that text, even if scholars tell us that this is not the original meaning. Texts can grow in meaning and may come to express different meanings which reverent prayer can turn into a coherent whole.. In Catholicism the Bible does not stand alone apart from Tradition, because the Holy Spirit is involved in both, which means they belong together. The continual exposure of the Church to the Bible through the liturgy, in which things old and new are understood with the help of the same Spirit who is Author of the Bible, is a constituant dimension of Tradition.

Has it ever occurred to you that those who wish the Church authorities to completely abolish the old Latin Roman rite and to permit women bishops share the same presuppositions as those who want the pope to declare the Blessed Virgin “Mediatrix of All Graces”?

Those who wish the pope to make the teaching on Mary a dogma believe that law is above liturgy. It is not enough for them that Our Lady’s holiness and position in God’s plan of Salvation are expressed in prayers, prefaces and offices of the Catholic liturgy. They hold that an official papal proclamation of Mary’s privileges gives more glory to God and to Our Lady than the liturgy does. Law is above liturgy in their estimation of things, even in giving glory to God. They are not sufficiently aware of the synergy between the Spirit and the Church which is the basic reality of the liturgy and makes it the supreme, highest expression of the Catholic faith; though, in times of crisis it may be necessary to proclaim or emphasize anew a dogma of pope or council in order to preserve the unity of the Church or in order to interpret the liturgy aright when this becomes a matter of dispute.. However, the liturgical expression of a truth is a good deal closer to the reality it is expressing than is a proclaimed dogma. It is the function of dogmatic pronouncements to expound and defend Catholic orthodoxy so that the liturgy can more faithfully give glory to God.

Like those who want a new dogma, the reformers believe that the pope’s signature is all that is needed to change a sacramental practice of two thousand years. For them law is above liturgy. Similarily, the Anglicans believe that it lies within the competence of their Synod to introduce women priests and bishops. Both Catholic reformers and Anglicans underestimate the importance of the organic nature of the Church’s Tradition and exaggerate the power of jurisdiction in its relationship to liturgy. They forget that it is from the celebration of the liturgy that all the Church’s power flows. In contrast, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer is the classic example of a rite which is the product of a victory of law over liturgy, as well as over the Tradition which the liturgy expresses; so, in accepting women bishops and priests, the Anglican Church is only being consistent with its past. 

It is because of these principals that the Pope Benedict XVI restored the old Latin Mass by removing the prohibitions that were de facto imposed on its use. He justifies this move by an appeal to Tradition:
"It is good to recall here what Cardinal Newman observed, that the Church, throughout her history, has never abolished nor forbidden orthodox liturgical forms, which would be quite alien to the Spirit of the Church. An orthodox liturgy, that is to say, one which expresses the true faith, is never a compilation made according to the pragmatic criteria of different ceremonies, handled in a positivist and arbitrary way, one way today and another way tomorrow.The orthodox forms of a rite are living realities, born out of the dialogue of love between the Church and her Lord. They are expressions of the life of the Church, in which are distilled the faith, the prayer and the very life of whole generations, and which make incarnate in specific forms both the action of God and the response of man." .

However, there is still much work to be done, both by persuading the Latin Mass people that the “new Mass” is fully Catholic, a new expression of the age-old Catholic Tradition, and by persuading the advocates of the “new Mass” that the very nature of the liturgy imposes on the Pope the obligation, not only to permit, but to support the “old Mass”, not against the “new Mass” but in favour of those for whom the old Latin Mass is the normal means by which they participate in the Christian Mystery. Judging by the bitterness that is shown, both on the internet and on the ground, and by the opinions expressed by even very knowledgeable people who have the good of the Church at heart on both sides of the debate, we have a long way to go; but contact in charity is the only way forward. As in the wider ecumenical scene, faith is knowledge born of religious love. Where there is no love, no proper understanding of each other can be sustained. The basis of understanding is the same, both within the Catholic Church and in our relations with traditions external to her: it is love which illuminates our faith, and which drives us on to embrace and comprehend expressions of the same faith that are beyond but not incompatible with our own. 

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