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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, 6 March 2016

THE CHURCH'S UNITY ACCORDING TO SAINT MAXIMOS THE CONFESSOR AND THE PAPAL ROAD TO UNITY


my source: Pravmir.com


The Church’s Unity According to Saint Maximus the Confessor
Source: Metropolitan Paul Yazigi's site
by
METROPOLITAN PAUL (YAZIGI) | 11 FEBRUARY 2016



Metropolitan Paul (Rami) Yazigi

In both writings referred to, St Maximus does not literally mention the church’s unity between Christians. Nevertheless, he was one of the champions defending the truth on behalf of the one catholic (καθολική) church and its unity.

As we are gathered in a Christian meeting, I would like to mention, shortly but clearly, St Maximus’ idea about unity. The world cannot be real and united unless in God. If unity between scattered parts means that they come to union with God in order to unite between themselves, then unity between Christians is achieved in ‘Orthodoxy’, understood here as truthfulness of faith rather than having any congregational connotation. The ‘catholicity’ of the church can not be accomplished without ‘orthodoxy’: the church is one and unique, and is catholic meaning that she bears the fullness and plenitude of truth, without any lack in the truthfulness of faith. It is well known that St Maximus, when he was informed of the new confession of faith (ομολογία) that all the bishops had signed (τόμος) thereby accepting false statements, responded boldly: “I am the catholic apostolic church”. For the church is Christ and cannot be determined by quantity. The power of the church is Truth and not some worldly criteria varying between different confessions and communities. Truth in the Orthodox tradition is not ideology, but the way of life. Orthodoxy is the Way, the Truth and Life in its fullness in spirit with God. St Maximus’ position is not far from the example that St Dorotheos provides: men are like points of a circle. Whenever these points go far away from the center, they are more separate between themselves, but whenever each point draws closer to the center of the circle, it gets closer to the other points. Communion with God is the ground on which people gather. Unity in Christ brings out our unity. The Church’s unity is neither a confederation where each member conserves what he has, nor a Christian ‘cooperative’.

In this context, St Maximus’ position regarding the heresy of monotheletism (μονοθελητισμός) was neither a dogmatic nor a rational or philosophical matter, as it is often referred to today. Rather, St Maximus expressed his understanding of whether our will is able or not able to acquire what Christ had. If Christ had only one divine will that swallowed his human will, our will would therefore not be in the likeness of His will, something that would have resulted in our incapacity to reach the purpose of life, i.e. being in His likeness and reaching deification. But human and divine will can unite and become one without the one excluding the other, in full accord. Whatever happened to Christ can occur with us, i.e. our will come to concordance to the divine will, whenever we want it and fight for it.

Seeking the unity of the churches outside of the Truth implies a loss of the church, according to St Maximus. The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church is all of the churches when they meet in Christ, the “Truth”. All the churches have developed cooperation between each other and with other religions and might have common projects and pastoral work. However, even though this collaboration is blessed, this fact does not imply ‘Unity’.

Unity, according to St Maxim, is built upon the “one spirit’ between man and woman, the slave and the free, man and angels, man and his brethren, and also between one church and another.

Pope: Blood of martyrs is the seed 


2015-06-19 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis welcomed the Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Mor Ignatius Aphram II, to the Vatican on Friday.



In his address to the Patriarch, Pope Francis spoke about the “bonds of unity and fraternity” that unite the Church of Rome to the Church of Antioch, recalling the meetings between Patriarch Mor Ignatius Jacob II and Pope Paul VI in Rome, and between Pope Saint John Paul II and Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka Iwas in Rome and Damascus.
“How much has changed since those first encounters,” Pope Francis exclaimed. The Syrian Orthodox Church, he continued, “is a Church of martyrs from the very beginning, and it is so today, too, in the Middle East, where it continues to endure, together with other Christian communities and other minorities, the terrible sufferings caused by war, violence, and persecutions.” And yet, the Pope said, “it seems that the powers of this world are incapable of finding solutions.”
Pope Francis called for mutual prayers for “all the victims of this brutal violence” and for victims “of all the situations of war present in the world.” He especially remembered two Eastern Archbishops who were kidnapped in Syria more than two years ago, as well as all those who have been deprived of their liberty. The Holy Father also asked for prayers for the grace “to be always ready to forgive” and to always be workers of reconciliation and peace.” This, he said, “is what animates the witness of the martyrs. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of unity in the Church and the instrument of the building up of the kingdom of God, which is a kingdom of peace and of justice.”
Pope Francis concluded his message with a call to strengthen the bonds of unity between the Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church. “Let us hasten our steps along the common path, keeping our gaze fixed on the day when we will be able to celebrate our belonging to the one Church of Christ around the same altar of Sacrifice and of praise.

Below, please find the complete text of Pope Francis' address:

Your Holiness,
Your Beatitude, Dear Brothers,

It is a great joy to be able to welcome you here, close to the tomb of St Peter, so beloved by Rome and Antioch. I give a most cordial welcome to Your Holiness and to the distinguished members of your delegation. I thank you for your words of friendship and spiritual closeness, and I extend my greetings to the Bishops, the clergy, and all the faithful of the Syrian Orthodox Church. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:7).

The visit of your Holiness strengthens the bonds of friendship and fraternity that unite our Churches, the See of Rome and the See of Antioch. Saint Ignatius, the teacher of unity among the faithful in Christ, in his letter to the Magnesians, echoing the prayer pronounced by Jesus at the Last Supper, prays that there be “one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope in charity” to gather “as into one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ, who coming forth from the one Father has returned to Him united” (7:1-2).

When the Patriarch Mor Ignatius Jacob II and Pope Paul VI met here in Rome in 1971, they consciously began what we can call a “holy pilgrimage” toward full communion between our Churches. Signing the Common Declaration on our joint profession of faith in the mystery of the Incarnate Word, true God and true man, they laid the dynamic foundation necessary for that journey that we are undertaking together in obedience to the prayer of the Lord for the unity of the disciples (cf. Jn 17:21-23). Later, the encounters between the Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka Iwas and Saint John Paul II, first in Rome and later in Damascus, have marked new steps forward, introducing concrete elements of pastoral collaboration for the good of the faithful.

How much has changed since these first encounters! Yours, Holiness, is a Church of martyrs from the beginning, and it is so today, too, in the Middle East, where it continues to endure, together with other Christian communities and other minorities, the terrible sufferings caused by war, violence, and persecutions. So much suffering! So many innocent victims. In the face of all this, it seems that the powers of this world are incapable of finding solutions.

Holiness, let us pray together for the victims of this brutal violence and of all the situations of war present in the world. In particular we recall Metropolitan Mor Gregorios Ibrahim and Metropolitan Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church, abducted together now more than two years ago. Let us recall, too, some priests and many other people, from diverse groups, [who have been] deprived of liberty. Let us ask the Lord, too, for the grace of always being ready to forgive and of being workers of reconciliation and peace. This is what animates the witness of the martyrs. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of unity in the Church and the instrument of the building up of the kingdom of God, which is a kingdom of peace and of justice.

Holiness, dear brothers, in this moment of harsh trial and of sorrow, let us strengthen ever more the bonds of friendship and fraternity between the Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church. Let us hasten our steps along the common path, keeping our gaze fixed on the day when we will be able to celebrate our belonging to the one Church of Christ around the same altar of Sacrifice and of praise. Let us exchange the treasures of our traditions as spiritual gifts, because that which unites us is much greater than that which divides us.

I make my own the words of your beautiful Syrian prayer: “O Lord, through the intercession of your mother and of all the saints, sanctify our and our dearly departed. May the memory of the Virgin Mary be a blessing for us; may her prayers be strength for our souls. Apostles, martyrs, disciples, and saints, pray for us, that the Lord might give us His mercy.” Amen.

(from Vatican Radio)


THE PAPAL ROAD TO UNITY
Pope Francis continuing the work of Pope Benedict

Let us map out the papal road to unity as illustrated in the address of Pope Francis to the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, and under headings taken from the Orthodox article on "The Church's  Unity According to Saint Maximos the Confessor."

Unity in Truth 
The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church is all of the churches when they meet in Christ, the “Truth”

What is ecclesial Truth? 

As "Sacrosanctum Concilium" says in it first chapter, "The Liturgy is the source of all the Church's powers and the goal of all its activity."  Hence, ecclesial Truth has its roots in the deep understanding of the Word of God of a community that participates in the liturgical life of the Church, especially in the Eucharist.  The Church has a continuous history from the time of the Apostles and so has this understanding we call Tradition.  In each church as body of Christ there is synergy between Christ's Spirit and the liturgical community which gives its Tradition and the liturgy which is its principal expression both a divine and a human dimension, which means that no mere human being has authority over either Tradition or the liturgy that expresses it, neither pope nor bishop, nor council of bishops.   Nor is the liturgy simply invented to suit the times: its roots are in the apostolic preaching and reflects the whole history of that church down to the present.   It is preserved neither in rigidity nor is it a spontaneous expression of modernity.  Like the Church itself, it is a divine-human reality, given to the Church by God during the course of history, always the same, yet always new. To quote Pope Francis,


Because each church, not only teaches the Gospel as did the Apostles, but also reflects the deep understanding of the Gospel as it has been lived down the ages in their particular cultures and history, the universal Tradition is expressed in various traditions, just as the Gospel is expressed in four gospels and in the teaching of St Paul etc: the conditions of the Church's earthly existence the Catholic Church on earth require Tradition to be expressed in traditions: one evident characteristic of the Church on earth is its diversity. 

However, because each Catholic tradition is the understanding of the Word that comes out of living a eucharistic life which is entered by one Baptism, and because there are only one Word, one Baptism and one Eucharist, there is a profound unity between different traditions underlying the differences.

It is a function of ecumenism within the context of apostolic churches to seek the unity under the differences when this has become unrecognizable due to historic schism, different thought forms and vocabulary, and memories of past wrongs.

Let us remind ourselves,   in the words of the writer of the first article, that 
For the church is Christ and cannot be determined by quantity. The power of the church is Truth and not some worldly criteria varying between different confessions and communities. Truth in the Orthodox tradition is not ideology, but the way of life. Orthodoxy is the Way, the Truth and Life in its fullness in spirit with God. St Maximus’ position is not far from the example that St Dorotheos provides: men are like points of a circle. Whenever these points go far away from the center, they are more separate between themselves, but whenever each point draws closer to the center of the circle, it gets closer to the other points. Communion with God is the ground on which people gather.  Unity in Christ brings out our unity. The Church’s unity is neither a confederation where each member conserves what he has, nor a Christian ‘cooperative’.

 I would like to join to this the words of Pope Francis:

“Before the problems of the church, it is not useful to search for solutions in conservatism or fundamentalism, in the restoration of obsolete conduct and forms that no longer have the capacity of being significant culturally…Christian doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts, interrogatives – but is alive, knows being unsettled, enlivened. It has a face that is not rigid, it has a body that moves and grows, it has a soft flesh: It is called Jesus Christ.” -    Pope Francis
What we are looking for in Christ in the other church.  Perhaps that is why Pope Pius XI gave the ecumenical quest especially to the Benedictines whose vocation is to, quite simply, seek God.  Having a strong Scriptural and Patristic basis, it should be obvious that doctrine cannot be reduced to a lot of cut and dried formulas: the mystery is always much greater than the formula, so great, indeed, that in all its great immensity it is beyond formulation, the formula being a doorway into a reality greater than itself.   There is an understanding of the Christian mystery that can only be approached on our knees.  Thus, in approaching other churches, we must always be ready to be humbly surprised.   Those who think that a truly doctrinal Christianity has left us only with certainty and has done away with all surprise, don't understand doctrine.   Those who approach the other church with pride in the all- sufficiency of their own understanding, and think humility is required by the other and not by themselves - because that church is wrong and we are right - do not have the humility necessary to undertake this mission.  However right we are, when we approach another church, we are approaching their relationship with God, and there is on great Unknown, what God is doing in that community.  This we approach with reverence and humility: fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

"Unity in Christ brings out our unity."


One sign of unity that already exists is the church's faithfulness to Tradition.


The first thing to do when approaching a church that has been cut off by heresy is to investigate whether, in fact, the church is heretical.  Modern scholarship is much better at analysing the situation than was the Church in the heat of doctrinal debate centuries ago, especially when it was difficult to separate adherence to a particular doctrine from politics.  However, it is not the function of theologians to make judgements on the past: what is important is the tradition as handed down to the present.   

To be a sister church, it is essential for us that the church has remained faithful to Tradition as it has been handed down to them from the time of the Apostles; and, of course, this tradition must be coherent with our own.

Thus Pope Francis says to the Syrian Orthodox patriarch:

When the Patriarch Mor Ignatius Jacob II and Pope Paul VI met here in Rome in 1971, they consciously began what we can call a “holy pilgrimage” toward full communion between our Churches. Signing the Common Declaration on our joint profession of faith in the mystery of the Incarnate Word, true God and true man, they laid the dynamic foundation necessary for that journey that we are undertaking together in obedience to the prayer of the Lord for the unity of the disciples (cf. Jn 17:21-23).
When Saint John Paul II was pope and Cardinal Ratzinger was head of the CDF, there was a similar investigation with the Assyrian Church of the East that had separated after the Council of Ephesus and gained the name "Nestorian", which still can seen in its literature.  A close examination of its doctrine found it to be completely orthodox'  Later, the Vatican declared,  ".... the Catholic Church recognises the Assyrian Church of the East as a true particular Church, built upon orthodox faith and apostolic succession.

To be a "true particular Church", we do not require the church to assent to doctrines that have been made dogmas by the Catholic Church because of its own particular history.  It is enough that they do not condemn our doctrine as heresy.  What is required by the very nature of Tradition as having its roots in the eucharistic community, is that they are faithful to the apostolic preaching as understood within their own eucharistic communities down the ages.  Nothing more can be required of them except that there is a coherence between their tradition and ours, the mark of all genuine Tradition.

A second sign of a unity that already exists is martyrdom.
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Pope Francis says to the Syrian patriarch:

Holiness, let us pray together for the victims of this brutal violence and of all the situations of war present in the world. In particular we recall Metropolitan Mor Gregorios Ibrahim and Metropolitan Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church, abducted together now more than two years ago. Let us recall, too, some priests and many other people, from diverse groups, [who have been] deprived of liberty. Let us ask the Lord, too, for the grace of always being ready to forgive and of being workers of reconciliation and peace. This is what animates the witness of the martyrs. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of unity in the Church and the instrument of the building up of the kingdom of God, which is a kingdom of peace and of justice.

Catholics, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Protestants are suffering and dying for Christ.   It has been estimated that a Christian dies for Christ somewhere in the world every few minutes.  They are all equally martyrs, all equally saints of the Church, because Christianity is always ecclesial and a personal relationship with Christ, as advocated by Protestants, always brings a person into a relationship with the Church whether he knows it or not.


 The black man among the martyrs was a nonChristian worker from Ghana. He did not have to die, but he was so impressed by the fervour of the other workers, that he told his captors that "Their God is my God," and was put to death like the rest.

The third sign of a unity that already exists is sanctity.  

Father Lev Gillet, and Orthodox who knew Catholicism intimately, much better than the abbots of Mount Athos who are so certain in their negative judgement, wrote this:
The whole teaching of the Latin Fathers may be found in the East, just as the whole teaching of the Greek Fathers may be found in the West. Rome has given St. Jerome to Palestine. The East has given Cassian to the West and holds in special veneration that Roman of the Romans, Pope Gregory the Great. St. Basil would have acknowledged St. Benedict of Nursia as his brother and heir. St. Macrina would have found her sister in St Scholastica. St. Alexis the "man of God," "the poor man under the stairs," has been succeeded by the wandering beggar, St. Benedict Labre. St. Nicolas would have felt as very near to him the burning charity of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Vincent de Paul. St. Seraphim of Sarov would have seen the desert blooming under Father Charles de Foucauld's feet, and would have called St. Thérèse of Lisieux "my joy." (Fr Lev Gillet)

Before we end this post, I want to ask you what church this little girl belongs to:




 As far as I can make out, she is an Assyrian Catholic, possibly from a family that belongs to the Charismatic Renewal.  Their liturgical language is Aramaic, the language of Our Lord.
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