Abayea: Feast of St. John of Kronstadt
Christ is in our midst!
Regaring your claims about Peter, historically we would agree that Peter was “first” of the apostles. But he was recognized as “first among equals.” The Eastern Patriarchs called on him to settle disputes on occasion but they were not bound by his decrees. Therefore I believe that the rise of the papacy was a departure from the Orthodox faith.
And there is the issue of the primacy of the Roman See. Peter was not only bishop of Rome but of Antioch first. There seems to be no real reason for the Roman See to be the center of Christendom.
In addition the addition of the filioque violates the 1st and 2nd ecumenical councils. For over 800 years both East and West affirmed that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. In fact as late as 808 Pope Leo III of Rome had the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed sans filioque enshrined in golden tablets on the doors of St. Peter’s in reaction to the foreign addition by Charlemagne.
These and other doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church point me toward the Eastern Church. But that isn’t really the reason that I am Orthodox. I have been in and out of Catholic churches with friends and family since I was a small child. In fact I live and grew up blocks away from Catholic U and the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Though I was intrigued at times nothing that I saw or heard there made me desire Christianity or Roman Catholicism specifically. When I became a Christian years later it was through the ministry of Protestants.
The first time I entered an Orthodox church however I was immediately impacted. I felt like I was encountering worship that time forgot! Not only did it feel ancient (which it is: our liturgy is from the 4th century with echoes from the 2nd and 3rd) but timeless. There is no way to fully communicate in an e-mail this concept but our whole life as the Body flows from the Liturgy. In it we become what man was always meant to be giving glory and thanksgiving to the Holy Trinity surrounded by the Saints in heaven and on earth.
To oversimplify, we don’t change. Or to paraphrase what one writer said “we change so that we may remain the same.” While Rome adds to the Orthodox faith and Protestantism seeks to reduce it, we are content with the Faith once delivered to the saints.
This e-mail turned out way longer than I intended! I don’t want to offend you or challenge your faith. If you want to know more about Orthodoxy go to Orthodoxy and the “Branch Theory” and anything on the oca.org website. The Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos is a good book too.
Again, you have my sincere thanks for your informative website. I intend to use it often!
J. Salza: Dear Abayea. Thanks a lot for your email. I hope you don’t mind me mentioning a few things.
Peter always had a supremacy among the apostles. Jesus only gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:18-19) which was a clear appointment based in Isaiah 22:19-22 (the kindgom always had one prime minister who served as the king’s representative). In fact, throughout all of salvation history, God has always had one person in charge. This was the case in the Old Testament, and it is the case in the New Covenant Church. The notion of a scattering of bishops across the world, loosely connected but with no visible head, was not Christ’s plan, and He gave Peter the keys to ensure their would be one leader, as well as dynastic succession to His office. Jesus based the integrity of His whole gospel message on the unity of the Church. But in order effect the unity He desired, He appointed one person – Peter – as the chief shepherd of the flock. If you study the early Church Fathers, they all call Peter the head of the Church. Peter was not also the bishop of Antioch. Peter ordained Ignatius, and Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch.
Also, the first two ecumenical councils did not teach that the Holy Spirit only proceeds from the Father. The Nicene Creed of 325 A.D. says the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Church Fathers also taught this very clearly during the first eight centuries.
The other issue I believe you should pray about is the fact that the Orthodox Church has abandoned many of the traditional teachings on morality, especially sexual morality. She no longer stands with the Catholic Church, who is the only Church to have a consistent and unchanging teaching on sexual morality for 2,000 years. This tells me that Jesus Christ has never left the Catholic Church. That is because it is truly His Church.
I appreciate your comments on the liturgy. I could not agree with you more. I will keep you in my prayers.
Abayea: Feast of St. Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria
Christ is in our midst!
I don’t mind you responding to my email. As much as I am loathe to debate these issues I do think I should answer your charges against the Holy Orthodox Church. I am going to try to use you should find credible.
1) Regarding the status of Peter as the first among equals. This goes way beyond the scope of an email. I would only suggest that you look into some Eastern sources to add to the Western perspective you have. As I said Bishop Kallistos’ The Orthodox Church is a good start.
2) You stated that “God has always had one person in charge” but it is interesting to note that God wanted to be the only King of Israel. He says that in choosing to have an earthly king they are rejecting Him as their Sovreign. See 1 Samuel 8. It seems that having Christ as our Head though “invisible” is more in line with what God intended in the first place.
3) Re: the papacy as a safeguard to unity. This seems ironic in the face of the reality of the Western Church. The West has spawned over 30,000 Protestant denominations. That doesn’t even include the traditionalist splinter groups that were created after Vatican 2. There is no parallel for this in the East.
4) Re: the first two ecumenical councils. The Creed produced from these councils did not include the filioque. The text clearly stated the the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. You may find this statement from the U.S. (Roman) Catholic Bishops interesting. It confirms that the West “add[ed] to its confession that the Holy Spirit ‘proceeds from the Father’ the word Filioque.” In it they also recommend that the original Greek text with out the filioque be used for catechal and liturgical purposes. I have also read that the current Roman Pope often recites the Creed without the filioque. And it is a fact that Pope Leo III rejected the filioque along with previous Roman Popes. You may want to look up that piece of documented history.
5) I don’t know what you are referring to in regard to sexual morality. The Orthodox Church doesn’t condone premarital sex, adultery or homosexual relations. It promotes one sacramental marriage for the laity and priests, before ordination. The Roman Catholic church maintains these same standards for Eastern rite (Byzantine Catholic) priests outside of the US in allowing marriage. I really don’t know what you could be talking about. You may be interested in the following Statement on the current moral crisis.
You are in my unworthy prayers as well.
Abayea, a sinner
J. Salza: Hi Abayea. I, like you, am not in this for debate. I am in it for charitable exchange between a brother and a sister.
1. Peter as supreme pastor – I can provide you 30 or 40 quotes from the early Church Fathers recognizing Peter as the rock of the Church and the chief shepherd of the flock. In fact, I have researched this issue to such an extent that I have a 150 page manuscript on my desk called The Biblical Basis for the Papacy (as a follow up to my first book). I can’t find any Father who believed the apostolic college had no visible head. It is simply not there. The burden is on those who don’t follow Peter to prove that there was at least one Church Father who said that Peter was not the chief shepherd, and that there was no dynastic succession to his chair.
2. One person in charge – you have confused King with representative. God is our king, but remember, God always had an earthly representative, or prime minister, over the kingdom. Read Isaiah 22:19-22. This unlocks the meaning of Jesus’ words in Matt. 16:18-19. Jesus appointed Peter as His earthly representative of the New Covenant Church. Again, this is supported by the Church Fathers.
3. The West has spawned 30,000 denominations? Wow. Actually, Martin Luther and private judgment theology spawned the 30,000 different denominations by breaking away with the Catholic Church. Indicting the Church for these defections is quite a charge. When Luther introduced sola Scriptura, the floodgates opened. That is precisely why Jesus Christ endowed His Church with the charism of infallibility which would be secured in his earthly representative when he officially taught the Church on matters of faith and morals. Only the Catholic Church has remained in tact, as one Church, and in matters of faith and morals. Even the Orthodox church has splintered. And we both know from whom the Orthodox church came.
4. Filioque – but no council ever said the Spirit only proceeds from the Father. This was clarified later by the Church as you indicate. I researched this issue today, and can send you quotes from the early Church fathers if you like. They all said that “from the Father through the Son” was the same thing as “from the Father and the Son.” I am putting these quotes on my website. Jesus says He will send the Spirit, so the Spirit proceeds from Jesus as well. The Spirit proceeds from the Son because He is the Spirit of love between the Father and the Son. As a result, He must proceed from both Father and Son. The Father isn’t just showing love to the Son; the Son loves the Father in return, in the same Spirit of love. So the Spirit of love proceeds from both.
The other problem with your position is that you cannot find one Church Father who says that the Spirit doesn’t proceed from the Son. Yet I can find many Church Fathers who say that the Spirit does proceed from the Son. That is the problem with your position. The Orthodox view is simply not part of the apostolic Tradition. If you want me to send you these quotes, I will do so.
5. The Orthodox Church, along with every other non-Catholic Christian church, has relaxed its views on contraception. There may be other compromises in moral teachings as well, but the contraception issue is most troubling.