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"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

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Sunday, 31 May 2015

FATHER GEORGE FLOROVSKY: LEADING ARCHITECT OF ORTHODOX ECUMENISM IN THE 20th CENTURY by Matthew Baker and Seraphim Danckaert (plus) A COMMENTARY (plus) 9 videos on Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue



Father Georges Florovsky


Georges Florovsky (1893-1979) was the leading architect of Orthodox ecumenism in the 20th century. He combined magnanimity towards non-Orthodox with staunch adherence to patristic Orthodoxy, exhibiting the courage to challenge any interlocutor, whether Orthodox hierarch or WCC secretary general. Florovsky maintained lasting ecumenical commitments, but warned against any ecumenical endeavor that would settle for doctrinal minimalism or privilege common action over theological confrontation. 

Ecumenical Career

Florovsky’s ecumenical involvement began in 1926 in Berdyaev’s Paris circle, where he met weekly with leading Roman Catholic and Protestant thinkers; soon after, he joined the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius. His first theological essays were offered in these contexts. Ordained in 1932, Florovsky spent much of the decade lecturing in Britain, where he was enthusiastically received. These activities expanded with the 1937 Edinburgh Faith and Order conference, where Florovsky was elected as Orthodox representative to the “Committee of Fourteen” charged with drafting the WCC constitution. At the Amsterdam Assembly (1948), he  played a critical role, leading to his appointment to the Central Committee and election to the Executive Committee of the WCC, on which he served until 1961. He remained a  principled and fearless force in ecumenical meetings into his final decade, his last major event being the 1971 Louvain Assembly.

Philosophy

Florovsky’s ecumenism has deep roots in his historical philosophy.  Eschewing both raw empiricism and the direct intuitionism of idealists, Florovsky stresses not only the interpreted character of facts, but also the contingent, synthetic character of the categories  by which experience is interpreted: what appears retrospectively as “fact” or a closed, necessary determination of thought was once prospectively open — the action of a free subject. Following the economic “singularism” of Pyotr Struve, Florovsky considers the acting person to be the subject of history, refusing to grant any fixed hypostatic character to race, nation, or civilization. The historical “whole” is an ever -shifting nexus of interacting persons-in-relation. True solidarity exists in Christ, in whom alone freedom coincides with “organic” oneness— an eschatological unity, transcending natural realities, and built up historically through faith and sacrament. Already by the mid-1920’s, while insisting on the seriousness of schism and conflicting doctrines of salvation, Florovsky emphasized that faith in Christ still binds together Christian East and West

Ecumenical Career

Florovsky’s ecumenical involvement began in 1926 in Berdyaev’s Paris circle, where he met weekly with leading Roman Catholic and Protestant thinkers; soon after, he joined the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius. His first theological essays were offered in these contexts. Ordained in 1932, Florovsky spent much of the decade lecturing in Britain, where he was enthusiastically received. These activities expanded with the 1937 Edinburgh Faith and Order conference, where Florovsky was elected as Orthodox representative to the “Committee of Fourteen” charged with drafting the WCC constitution. At the Amsterdam Assembly (1948), he  played a critical role, leading to his appointment to the Central Committee and election to the Executive Committee of the WCC, on which he served until 1961. He remained a principled and fearless force in ecumenical meetings into his final decade, his last major event being the 1971 Louvain Assembly.


 This early anti-determinist philosophy informs Florovsky’s later strenuous resistance to all attempts to explain Christian divisions by reference to psychological-cultural “types”— whether to magnify or to relativize divisions (pace Karsavin, Zander, Lossky, Romanides). Any suggestion of historical inevitability of schisms, following the retrospective tendency to posit necessary causal links between events, is to be rejected. Christian communities are composed of free persons; the history of doctrine must not be thought to follow patterns of logical deduction or organic evolution. Precisely in this light, however, we cannot act as if events had never happened: though they might have  been avoided or overcome, historic conflicts gave birth to doctrines subsequently determinative for particular traditions. Yet a changed historical perspective, Florovsky held, might also reveal a wider acceptable consensus. 

Ecumenical Theology:


In Florovsky’s account, the main ecumenical problem is the “paradox”of schism. The Church is one — the Christian world lies in division. Faith in Jesus as God and Savior creates a real ontological bond. Yet the divisions are no less ontological  —  marking separations, not only in love and creed, but the very experience of faith. In the phrase “separated brethren,” the adjective weighs as heavily as the noun. True ecumenism demands a“theology of the abnormal.”

This “ paradox”is expressed acutely in the distinction between the Church’s canonical and charismatic borders. Contrary to what some have claimed, Florovsky reiterated the views expressed in his 1933 article, “The Limits of the Church,” many times throughout his multi-decade career, leaving no sign of retraction.  Florovsky rejects the “over - rigoristic tendency” amongst some Orthodox to deny categorically the existence of sacraments beyond canonical boundaries. The “economic" interpretation concerning reception of heterodox he regards as a doubtful theological opinion, not the teaching of the Church. Where Easterners often appeal simply to canons, Florovsky credits Western theologians for raising the question in properly theological light, and calls on Orthodox theologians to appropriate Augustine’s theology of sacraments in schism.

While the simplicity and clarity of Cyprian’s theory have a certain intellectual appeal, Augustine’s more nuanced theologoumenon makes the most theological sense of the Church’s  historic  practice. This does not mean, however, that canonical boundaries can be ignored. Intercommunion without full unity in faith is impossible. We are thus left with a sharp “antimony”— a scandal whose bitterness should inspire Christians to undertake the search for full doctrinal agreement. 

Concretely, the greatest ecumenical problem in Florovsky’s view concerns Rome.  Contra Lossky, Florovsky views the filioque largely as a canonical matter and rejects, as utterly unhistorical, the attempt to deduce “papism” by some necessary logic from the filioque; theologically, a synthesis of Cappadocian and Augustinian triadology is not, in his view, impossible. The primary divider is the papal claims, reflecting a false doctrine of Church unity. Yet Florovsky is clear: the Spirit of God still breathes in the Roman Church; the holy sacrifice is still offered. In the Reformation, contrastingly, he discerns a departure from priesthood and historic Church order.

While Florovsky pushed the ecumenical conversation towards ecclesiology, he underscores nonetheless that existing divisions concern the whole of faith, involving doctrines of God, Christ, Mary, man and — not least— the understanding of history implied in these. 


Florovsky observes a certain “hyper -historicism” in Roman Christological consciousness —as if the Ascension marked Christ’s exit  from history, leaving his deputy behind to govern.

In Protestantism, conversely, Florovsky detects a “hyper -eschatological” reduction of history: human striving is undervalued; sacraments  become nearly Old Testament signs; the Church’s historic visibility is not fully recognized. The Reformation divorce of “Jerusalem” from “Athens” marks yet another departure. 


It was in defending Christian metaphysics against the perceived fideism of early dialectical theologians that Florovsky introduced his call for return to the “Christianized Hellenism” of the Fathers of both East and West.

  Florovsky regarded the recovery of patristic theology as ecumenically crucial. It is in this light that his 1937 masterwork,  Puti Russkogo Bogoslovija — a book meant for Russian readers, which Florovsky intended to revise for translation — must be understood.


 His sharp critique of Westernizing “pseudomorphosis” was aimed, not at the West per se, but at a Russian theology alienated from its own liturgical sources and unmoored from its roots in patristic theology, as well as a spirit of “servile imitation” that made real ecumenical confrontation impossible. Florovsky’s alternative is not isolation, but “free encounter with the West” — conducted on the common recovered ground of patristic and classical conciliar theology, which Orthodoxy claims as her own. It was this vision that accompanied his concepts of “neo- patristic synthesis” and “ecumenism in time” which, he stressed, were closely correlated.“Ecumenism in time” searches the shared past of apostolic tradition, seeking recovery of a “common mind.” Florovsky celebrated the decision of Lund 1952 to retire theconfessional method of “comparative theology” in favor of this more historical approach. Florovsky’s goal, however, is “ecumenical synthesis,” rooted in the Fathers but responsive to questions surrounding present divisions. Such synthesis presumes discrimination: not every belief can be reconciled. 

Agreement in truth requires conversion, response to a divine gift. The Orthodox uniquely remind all Christians of the
faith of the “undivided Church". ”Culturally speaking, however, the East too is a“fragment” and must also enlarge its theological vision, avoiding exaggerating local particularities. Christian unity understood as “universal conversion to Orthodoxy”entails neither submission to the East nor rigid uniformity, but rather“agreement with all the ages” and “mutual acknowledgement in the truth”

The 1954 Evanston Assembly marked the zenith of Florovsky’s ecumenical activities. There, together with his friend Archbishop Michael Constantinides, primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Florovsky led the Orthodox delegation in a serious challenge to the Protestant presuppositions of the assembly, in the form of two separate Orthodox statements: on the main assembly theme of Christian hope, and on the Faith and Order document regarding Christian disunity. While the first response was critical, the second repudiated outright the approach of the Faith and Order report towards Christian reunion as entirely unacceptable to the Orthodox Church. Only a complete return to the total faith and episcopal order of the Catholic and Apostolic Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils can produce the desired unity. Nor should this unity be understood only eschatologically, for it exists as a continuous historical reality. Orthodox are bound to confess their conviction that the Church has preserved fully the apostolic faith. These points were further elaborated in the Orthodox statement at Oberlin (1957), which Florovsky also authored, and which is still considered one of the best statements of Orthodox ecclesiological self-understanding in the ecumenical movement.

Criticism and Conflict

In Florovsky’s view, Amsterdam and Evanston were “high level,” as serious theologians kept the focus on substantive issues. However, the WCC began going “downhill” afterwards due to proliferation of executives in Life and Work and reduction in Faith and Order; the influence of authoritative theologians weakened. The result was decisions made by men who are ignorant of dogma and ignorant of Church history, tradition, Christian culture. Hence they feel that what we need to do is find what we have in common, then forget the rest, not realizing that “the rest” is what makes up the individuality of the traditions and denominations, and one does not simply forget them for the sake of unity, since it is a superficial, unreal, and certainly not a lastingunity . . . When there is ignorance of this sort it means that in dialogue, which I am entirely in favor of, these individuals do not represent Protestantism, or Orthodoxy, or Rome at all, but rather their own stupidities.2 Such changes dovetailed with shifts in Orthodox leadership. The 1958 death of Archbishop Michael was, in Florovsky’s words, “a great blow.”3  There were strong disagreements between Florovsky and Michael’s successor, Iakovos Koukouzis (1911-2005), WCC co-president from 1959 to 1968. From the start, Iakovos insisted there be no separate Orthodox statements as there had been at Evanston. Representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate at Delhi 1961, Florovsky flouted this directive, leading forty Orthodox representatives together with Bishop Athenagoras Kokkinakis in a statement reiterating the Orthodox ecclesiological terms of involvement. Absent from the delegation, Iakovos issued his own communiqué that there was no Orthodox statement; the “Florovsky statement,” however, had already been published.  A similar, but less  publicized conflict occurred at Montreal (1963), occasioned by Iakovos’ support of a referendum ascribing ecclesial status to the WCC — in contradiction to the 1950 Toronto Statement, which Florovsky had been instrumental in getting passed.  


Tensions between Florovsky and WCC secretary Willem Visser’t Hooft  also came to a head in a conflict at the 1959 Pan-Orthodox Rhodes conference, the details of which were never made public. Florovsky strongly supported official dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, but objected to the insistence of Visser’t Hooft and Iakovos that Protestants be included: he felt that the WCC, threatened by an Orthodox-Rome alliance, was attempting to control the dialogue. Florovsky followed Vatican II with positive interest, noting a return to ancient tradition and more conciliar structures. The Jerusalem meeting of Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI in 1964 was a hopeful sign, but required more careful “molecular”theological work:the “dialogue of love” must be joined with the dialogue of truth. Without sound doctrinal foundations, reconciliation would prove illusory, and only alienate the faithful.

In Florovsky’s view, problems were caused in the WCC by inattention to doctrine, as well as by the increasing influence of political agendas. The secularizing trend in theology also signaled a crisis of faith. The Uppsala Assembly (1968) was hardly an ecumenical event: there was little interest in the Church, no Christian note; the feel resembled a UN meeting, the focus turned to race and war. This political turn, Florovsky held, was driven not only by pragmatism but also impatience with theological dialogue, making the problems of the ecumenical movement “perhaps insoluble.”

Conclusion


 For all his strictures, Florovsky remained ecumenically committed to the end. In interviews of his last decade, he defended continued participation in the WCC, noting the influence of Orthodox participants in turning the conversation to ecclesiology and introducing patristic studies into Faith and Order. Orthodox responsibility to the Christian world makes ecumenical witness imperative. And Orthodox have also learned from other Christians. Ecumenical encounter reawakened Orthodox theologians to neglected elements of their own tradition, challenging them to renew or clarify the Orthodox teaching. In this regard, ecumenism had encouraged greater seriousness about theology. Looking forward, Florovsky held out hope for serious theological work, particularly in light of the increased ecumenical involvement of Roman Catholics. All the same, Florovsky remarked repeatedly that he expected no spectacular new developments in the near future. Just as he had done since the 1930’s, he stressed that the chief ecumenical virtue is patience. One must carry “the Cross of patience,” avoiding
over-hastiness. The work is urgent; the victory rests with the Lord. Archbishop Basil Krivocheine once remarked that Florovsky showed the Orthodox that they could be ecumenical without betraying Orthodoxy. While he left much undone, and the situation has changed since his day, Florovsky laid perennial foundations, which will guide generations to come. His example was marked by bold candor in speaking the truth, sympathetic willingness to learn from other Christians, absolute confidence in the universal vocation of Orthodoxy, and an ability to hold together polarities that many lesser spirits would pry apart. In his own words:
“I  am neither Eastern nor Western, but  just abide by the perennial truthof the Christian message.” 

 Select Bibliography
Florovsky’s
 Collected Works
 are not comprehensive or reliable. The volumes on ecumenism are especially poor. Recourse to the original articles is advised.
 Primary
“The Limits of the Church,”
Church Quarterly Review
117:233 (1933), 117-31.

Проблематика христианского воссоединения,”

 Путь
 (Feb 1933), 1-15.
“Determinations and Distinctions: Ecumenical Aims and Doubts,”
Sobornost 
 4:3 (1948), 126-132.

“The Legacy and the Task of Orthodox Theology,”
 Anglican Theological Review
31:2 (1949), 65-71.
“Une vue sur l’
Assemblée

d’
Amsterdam,

 Irénikon
22:1 (1949), 4-25.
“Confessional Loyalty in the Ecumenical Movement,”
Student World 
 53:1 (1950), 59
 – 
70.
“The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Movement,”
Theology Today
 7:1 (1950), 68-79.
“The Ethos of the Orthodox Church,”
 Ecumenical Review
 12:2 (1960), 183-198. 
“The Problem of Ecumenical Encounter,” in E. J. B. Fry and A. H. Armstrong, eds.,
 Re- Discovering Eastern Christendom
 (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1963), 63-76.
“Знамение Пререкаемо,”

 Вестник Русского Студенческого Христианского

 Движения
 ,
72-73:1-2 (1964): 1-7.
“Interview with Georges Florovsky,”
 Concern
 3:4 (Fall 1968): 9-12, 27.
Secondary
Matthew Baker, “ Neopatristic Synthesis and Ecumenism: Towards the ‘Reinte



COMMENTARY


This commentary involves a certain amount of repetition.   We have already given an account of how two groups of theologians, one French and Catholic, and the other made up of Russian refugees in Paris who were Orthodox, came to meet as colleagues.   Both groups were under a cloud in their respective churches, the Orthodox because they were suspected of being influenced by Catholic thought,  living, as they did, in the West, the Catholics of being modernists.-, which had become the name for everything the Vatican did not like.   The groups surprised each other because their criticism of their respective churches echoed each other, because they identified the same theological enemy in the influence of neo-scholasticism, and they had the same solution in a radical appeal to Tradition and the Fathers as the context in which everything else has to be interpreted. 

About Tradition, Fr Florovsky wrote:
[ The true tradition is only the tradition of truth, traditio veritatis. And this "true tradition," according to St. Irenaeus, is grounded in, and guaranteed by, that charisma veritatis certum, which has been deposited from the very beginning in the Church and preserved in the uninterrupted succession of Apostolic ministry: qui cum episcopatus successione charisma veritatis certum acceperunt (Adv. haereses IV. 40. 2). Thus, "tradition" in the Church is not merely the continuity of human memory the permanence of rites and habits. Ultimately, "'tradition" is the continuity of divine assistance, the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. The Church is not bound by "the letter." She is constantly moved forth by "the spirit." The same Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, which "spake through the Prophets," which guided the Apostles, which illumined the Evangelists, is still abiding in the Church, and guides her into the fuller understanding of the divine truth, from glory to glory.]

In the dialogue that continued from the mid 1920's till the very eve of Vatican II, Fr Florovsky had to drop out because he went to the States in 1948.  Nevertheless he was there at the beginning, and his basic theological position found an echo of agreement on both sides. The fact that both groups were marginalised meant that neither the Orthodox Church as a whole, nor the Catholic Church knew that it was going on, nor did the theologians themselves have any great ambition that anything of historic importance would come of it. It was a dialogue between people who were simply interested in the same subjects.   All this changed when Archbishop Angelo Roncalli became papal nuncio in Paris.

   When he became Pope John XXIII, called a council, invited the French Catholic theologians to participate and the Orthodox churches to send observers, then the sheer excellence of the theology produced by both groups became a formative influence on Vatican II and on the official dialogue that now takes place between Catholics and Orthodox.

In the light of this, we can understand the paragraph about which we shall comment.


Agreement in truth requires conversion, response to a divine gift. The Orthodox uniquely remind all Christians of the faith of the “undivided Church". ”Culturally speaking, however, the East too is a“fragment” and must also enlarge its theological vision, avoiding exaggerating local particularities. Christian unity understood as “universal conversion to Orthodoxy” entails neither submission to the East nor rigid uniformity, but rather“agreement with all the ages” and “mutual acknowledgement in the truth”

The Orthodox Church, like its Catholic counterpart, claims to be the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in its fullness.   While the Catholic Church is normally considered to be a "sister church", it has made too many mistakes since the schism, the Orthodox believe, the biggest one being breaking canonical communion with the Orthodox Church and the subsequent exaggerated growth of the papacy up to and including Vatican I.   The Catholic Church, for its part, normally considers that the Orthodox are in schism, even though they would say that the sin of schism was shared by both parties.  What can be done about it.  It looks like the clash between an unstoppable force striking an immovable object!   However, read this paragraph from Fr Florovski:
  “universal conversion to Orthodoxy” entails neither submission to the East nor rigid uniformity, but rather“agreement with all the ages” and “mutual acknowledgement in the truth" 

 What will happen if, from a Catholic point of view, "conversion to Catholicism" does not entail the Orthodox being obliged to accept doctrines they had no hand in formulating, nor rigid conformity in governance, in pastoral policy, in spirituality or theological vocabulary and ideas; but the need for both sides to go back to the Fathers, both from East and West, and find through them "agreement with all the ages", and "mutual acknowledgement in the truth"?   Thus, Fr Joseph Ratzinger noted  that Patriarch Athanagoras addressed Pope Paul VI in their historic meeting


 "as the successor of St. Peter, as the most esteemed among us, as one who presides in charity.”  
Fr. Ratzinger goes on to say that the Patriarch “was expressing the essential content of the doctrine of primacy as it was known in  the first millennium.”  That is as far as the Orthodox can be expected to go.  It remains for unity to be achieved that

"the East must not  view more recent Western developments as heretical and We must “recognize the Church of the East as orthodox and legitimate in the form she has always had.”
Florovsky opposed theology in his own church that was "alienated from its own liturgical sources and unmoored from its roots in patristic theology."   He must have been surprised to discover Catholic theologians who were opposed to exactly the same thing in the Catholic Church for exactly the same reasons, because he had believed that what he opposed were characteristics of western theology in general, and this was clearly not the case. 

Against that kind of neo-scholastic theology, he opposed the evidence of Tradition.   In fact, for him, Tradition is the most basic authority in the light of which some councils of the Church have been rejected and others accepted, and according to which all councils must be interpreted: there is no authority within the Church as great or as binding as the Church itself living out its Tradition.

Again, he discovered a group of Catholic theologians who had come to the same conclusion.   Such a conclusion was already "in the air" among Catholic theologians.   Pope Pius XI had already said that the liturgy is the primary expression of the "ordinary magisterium" of the Church, which means the expression of Tradition in the day-to-day teaching authority of the Church.   I am not sure how conscious Pope Pius XI was of how different and opposed to the normal Vatican point of view this statement was.  If the Vatican had been asked what is the primary expression of the ordinary magisterium, it would have pointed, without hesitation, to the latest papal encyclicals, but Pius XI was pointing to the liturgy.   

The Vatican view of doctrinal development in Tradition was that of ever greater profundity and clarification, so that it was not necessary to look to an earlier, less profound, less clear version of the Faith in the past because the latest version is bound to be clearer and better.   The  French ressourcement theologians, on the other hand,  like Florovsky, had a different idea of Tradition: it is the product of the synergy between the humble obedience of the Church and the action of the Holy Spirit, the sharing of Christ's mystical Body in the mind of Christ by the power of the Spirit.  This is a constant characteristic of the Church; and the Holy Spirit is not more present in one generation than in another.  It is therefore possible, even probable, that the theology of the Fathers of the Church be more profound in certain areas than is current teaching, and it is always a worthwhile task to delve into the Fathers to complement what we already hold to be true, or even to provide us with an alternative version of Tradition on a particular point.

Another dimension was added to our understanding of the Church when the Paris-based Archimandrite Nicolas Afanassieff,looked back into the sources to the post-apostolic fathers, to St Ignatius of Antioch and St Irenaeus, and formulated "eucharistic ecclesiology".   If Tradition is the product of the synergy between the humble, obedient Church and the Holy Spirit, then it is in the eucharistic assembly where the Church and the Spirit are most in synergy: it makes the Mass possible, and it is through the Mass that the Church becomes itself, the body of Christ.  The eucharistic assembly, which can trace its teaching and mission to the apostles and shares in the Christian Mystery by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the true source of Tradition.  Thus, Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Vatican II document on the liturgy, would say in its first chapter that the liturgy is the source of all the Church's powers, which includes Tradition.

 Afanassieff said that the whole universal Church is not the sum of its parts (dioceses), but is mystically present in all its parts, because each part is the body of Christ which cannot be divided: a ciborium may contain a thousand hosts, and each host and all together are the body of Christ: sacramental reality defies ordinary mathmatics.  Thus, each local eucharistic community is, as body of Christ, a manifestation of the universal Church, and the bishop, or a priest in the name of a bishop, in presiding over the Mass in a local assembly, is presiding over an act of the universal Church.   Hence, the tradition which expresses the community's understanding of the faith during the successive generations of its history, starting with its spiritual ancestry from the time of the Apostles, is also a version of the universal Tradition.

   However, unlike the hosts in the ciborium, each local church has its own history, its own culture, its own problems down the years, its own saints, its own theologians seeking God within their own context and according to their own vocabulary, its own experience of God, its own style of being religious, and its own gifts and shortcomings.

Hence, just as there are four gospels but only one Gospel in four different versions, so there is  only one Tradition expressed in the many different traditions in the universal Church: the diversity comes from the way in which the Christian life has become incarnate in many different places, and the unity springs from the identity each local church has with all other local churches: as body of Christ, it celebrates a Eucharist that is identical to all other Eucharists. 

 Both unity and diversity are essential characteristics of the Catholic Church and the Holy Spirit is the Author of both unity and diversity.  He works with the Church locally, at a sacramental level, and universally, manifesting the lordship of Christ over the whole world. Hence Catholic Tradition has sources all over the world, wherever the Eucharist is celebrated, each with its own religious and cultural heritage, but is, at its deepest level, single and universal; and the history of the Church is a history of the tension between these two tendencies of diversity and unity in the Church.

Therefore theologians must recognise the diversity within Tradition, must avoid simplistically identifying their own tradition which is regional with Tradition as what all traditions have in common. Each region can say correctly that its tradition  is a version of the whole and is a product of the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church: it has its basis in the synergy that belongs to the Eucharistic celebration.   Nevertheless,   it will be discovered that the identity between traditions is not perfect, and that certain traditions may have reached conclusions about particular problems that are different from other traditions.   Theologians must ask if they are truly incompatible or only apparently so; whether, even if they are incompatible, the difference has been considered to be sufficiently central to cause a breach of communion or not; or whether the difference simply shows another way of approaching the problem.  Moreover,  whenever we find ourselves in a theological or pastoral impasse when we apply an answer from our own tradition, then we can perhaps look at another Catholic tradition to see if the other regional church has an answer that is more realistic, more in accordance with the Gospel, or more profoundly traditional. 

Thus, Florovsky answers the problem of the validity of heterodox sacraments by following St Augustine, as it says in the post above:
  Florovsky rejects the “over - rigoristic tendency” amongst some Orthodox to deny categorically the existence of sacraments beyond canonical boundaries. The “economic" interpretation concerning reception of heterodox he regards as a doubtful theological opinion, not the teaching of the Church. Where Easterners often appeal simply to canons, Florovsky credits Western theologians for raising the question in properly theological light, and calls on Orthodox theologians to appropriate Augustine’s theology of sacraments in schism.
Although he believes the Orthodox Church to have the faith of the undivided Church of the Fathers in a way that no other church can claim, he also admits that 
"the Spirit of God still breathes in the Roman Church; the holy sacrifice is still offered."
Thus he said that the ecumenical quest is a challenge to the Orthodox Church as well:
”Culturally speaking, however, the East too is a“fragment” and must also enlarge its theological vision, avoiding local peculiarities"
This is precisely what the Catholic ressourcement theologians demanded of their own church and of the Vatican in particular; but there seemed little hope that they would be listened to, until Archbishop Roncalli became papal nuncio in Paris.

When Cardinal Frings of Cologne stood up at the beginning of the first session of Vatican II and called for the rejection of the document proposed by Vatican theologians on Revelation, saying that there were too many quotations from recent popes, too little grounding on Scripture and on the Fathers of the Church, especially the Greek Fathers - his intervention had probably been written by his secretary, Father Joseph Ratzinger - then the ressourcement agenda and the general theological position of Fr George Florovsky moved from a marginal, dangerous and somewhat eccentric opinion in the eyes of the Vatican to the very centre of Vatican II's concerns.  This group of theologians, joined by others like Joseph Ratzinger, Archbishop Wojtyla, and Christopher Butler, and supported by the Melkite hierarchy, played a major role in writing the council documents, and made sure that from then on, some key Orthodox teachings became central to western Catholic teaching, ideas like theosis (divinisationand sobornost (conciliarity).   Moreover, in spite of later hesitations by theologians of this school about post-Vatican II liturgical reform, in the actual new texts, the principles of ressourcement are evident. The liturgists, in Fr Florovski's words, "enlarged their theological vision" and, in a "free encounter with the East", extended our own Latin Church's liturgical experience, making use of both Antiochian and Alexandrian solutions to Latin liturgical problems, thus, even in liturgy, reflected the "pan-patristic synthesis" which the Council desired and which will only be completed when Catholicity and Orthodoxy become  one.

If, by its very nature, the Church is a unity in diversity and this is reflected in the multi-form nature of the one ecclesial Tradition, then this implies within a Catholic context that the bishops of the local churches throughout the world represent the diversity of the Church, while the Pope represents the fundamental unity behind the many forms that Catholic Tradition takes in the local churches.    If diversity and unity are both essential to the Church, then pope and bishops must act in partnership; and we see in the synods on the family how Pope Francis is trying to set up an adequate infrastructure to do justice to both aspects of church governance.  That primacy cannot adequately function without conciliarity, and conciliarity cannot adequately function without primacy, is a theme in Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, and the Catholic Church is taking these conclusions seriously.  

 Since Vatican II, there have been several examples which show that the last two popes were very conscious that they were bound in their decisions to obey Tradition. Against the universal testimony of Tradition, they simply had no power to ordain women.   Because of Tradition as seen in a small, almost insignificant and separated church, that of the Assyrians of the East, which celebrates Mass in Aramaic, the language of Our Lord, but which has a Eucharistic prayer without the words of institution, the Vatican had to adapt the common teaching of the Church on the consecration at Mass in acknowledgement of this fact.   Pope Benedict XVI, in permitting those who wish to go on celebrating the old Latin Mass, said that he does not have the power to forbid it because it was allowed for centuries and cannot suddenly become disallowed: Tradition is paramount.  It is recognised that the petrine ministry has been seen with greater clarity in the West than in the East, and the 1st Vatican Council made its decisions during the state of schism. The Vatican dogmas are snapshots of the western tradition, not of the eastern; therefore the Eastern tradition cannot be obliged to accept these dogmas because their obligation is to be true to their own tradition.  There have been times when East and West have been in communion even though this difference already existed between them.   What was allowable before when we lived our common Tradition together cannot become unallowable now, because the Holy Spirit was as present then as He is now. 

We haven't arrived at a fully balanced ecclesiology yet, either in theory or in practice; but we are getting there; and one of the people we have to thank is Father George Florovski and the other Russian theologians living in exile in the 20th century.


I shall complete this article with a group of nine videos from Orientale Lumen in which first class Catholic and Orthodox theologians discuss relations between the two churches in detail.   In a few days time, I shall put this collection of videos on a permanent new page so that they will be readily available.
  please click on:


WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE ORTHODOX-CATHOLIC
DIALOGUE?
Top theologians and ecumenists explain in nine videos:  
,T
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