DOGMA in the "strict sense"
my source: St Elias Today
Demonstrating the unique spiritual identity of our Byzantine tradition has been no simple task. However, being grafted into a spiritual tradition I feel it's my obligation to be faithful to the roots that give me spiritual life. In being faithful many times I have met opposition, especially in the things I have written on this blog. In essence much of the opposition is based upon how we have come to receive our respected theological truths or dogmas in our traditions. As a Byzantine Catholic I believe it's essential to demonstrate that our theological inheritance ,that's different from the Latin tradition, are not at odds. This is often difficult to grasp in the culture of relativism vs. absolute truth. On the other hand, I don't believe such precision in understanding the mysteries is essential in demonstrating the unique catholic diversity that we find in our traditions.
"...the Latin tradition is not the only tradition that has been birthed by the apostles"
Its very threatening at times to a Roman catholic or spiritually Latinized Byzantine to hear statements that some of us conservative Byzantines have made such as," we don't have a purgatory or view Mary as Immaculately conceived or even worse the Pope is First amongst equals. For them to hear such things goes against every principle of how they are "obligated" to uphold what they receive from Tradition. As a Byzantine Catholic I feel we are equally obligated to uphold our own Tradition, which obviously developed differently than the Latin one. The key here is to understand that the Latin tradition is not the only tradition that has been birthed by the apostles. As Byzantines we too have a theological history and have arrived at our own conclusion to a shared mystery.
In saying such things I often here the phrase, "dogma is dogma". Dogmas in fact are a the formulation of revealed truth. They also express the (living faith) of the Church. So on the one hand they are finite expressions of a mystery and on the other they demonstrate the spirituality of the faithful. Universally dogmas are the decisions made at Ecumenical councils. For the Roman Catholic church these ecumenical councils continued after the schism. Consequently, the dogmas aforementioned are universally binding on all Christians. For the Eastern Catholic such a position by Rome has been challenging because it means that we have to reformulate of forsake our own (living faith) in order for it not to contradict Rome's.
To neglect or reformulate ones tradition is at best scandalous.
Countless Byzantine Catholic Christians have left their respected churches for the Orthodox because of being forced into these positions. We have been told we are in error because we broke communion with Rome, as if the Latin tradition is the dogmatic center. Historically at the Ecumenical councils the Latin tradition did not have near the central influence that some boast of today. In fact, in the Ravenna document it says," the break between East and West which rendered impossible the holding of Ecumenical Councils in the strict sense of the term". Even though the Latin tradition went on as if it was the only true church and held councils with that point of view we find a fuller understanding of Ecumenical as stated in the document. Consequently, dogmas of Rome for the East must be received in a different sense rather than the strict sense.
The tension that is derived from the conclusions that I have stated are obvious. However, being faithful to the Byzantine Tradition does not mean we are in opposition to what the faithful have arrived at in another tradition. We are a Catholic communion and one Tradition is not in subornation to the other but rather each expresses the same mystery and at times as John Paul the Great once said in ORIENTALE LUMEN one tradition sometimes arrives a little closer at the meaning of the mysteries then the other. So when we say things like we don't have a purgatory (ext). it isn't to the extent that we hold Rome in error but rather we have our spiritual tradition regarding the mysteries that we share
In the near future, I shall publish a post on Tradition, looking at the "History of the Orthodox Church" and this post on dogma from a standpoint that is, I hope, both Catholic and ecumenical. In our relations with the Eastern churches, there is coming to light a renewal of Catholic ecclesiology. - David
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