Wednesday, October 12, 2005

From the Synod: Good and Bad Ecumenism, from our Separated Brethren

Yesterday afternoon, the "fraternal delegates" (i.e., non-Catholic Christian representatives) were invited to give remarks at the Episcopal Synod. In doing so, they gave some very different glimpses of the attitudes of their churches vis-á-vis Rome

Positive and friendly:

METROPOLITAN JOHANNIS ZIZIOULAS OF PERGAMO, GREECE. "It is a great honor for me to be given the opportunity to address this venerable episcopal Synod and bring to it the fraternal greetings and best wishes of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Church of Constantinople. The invitation to our Church to send a fraternal delegate to this Synod is a gesture of great ecumenical significance. We respond to it with gratitude and love. We Orthodox are deeply gratified by the fact that your Synod also regards the Eucharist as the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church. It is extremely important that Roman Catholics and Orthodox can say this with one voice. There may still be things that separate our two Churches but we both believe that the Eucharist is the heart of the Church. It is on this basis that we can continue the official theological dialogue of our two Churches, which is now entering a new phase. Eucharistic ecclesiology can guide us in our efforts to overcome a thousand years of separation. For it is a pity to hold the same conviction of the importance of the Eucharist but not be able to share it at the same table."

Superior and, frankly, a bit disdainful:

REV. FILIPPO VAYLTSEV OF THE PATRIARCHATE OF MOSCOW, RUSSIA. "The Eucharist is the central and most important point of the life of the Church and of every Christian. Hence, the weakening of Eucharistic awareness leads to a destruction of ecclesiastic awareness, ... and to errors in the understanding of Christian values. ... We would be very pleased if our experience of Eucharistic life, both past and present, proves useful and helpful to the Roman Catholic Church. ... It must not be forgotten that preparation for communion in the Russian Orthodox Church also includes, apart from inner preparation, 'The Rule' (strict fasting for three days, visits to Church during these three days, prayers for communion, and special Eucharistic fasting after midnight), and Confession is also compulsory. However, these strict rules are seen by the Church not as an obligation, but as a measure that was formed historically in accordance with tradition, and that people apply to themselves."

Friendly and sharing:

MOR SEVERIUS MALKE MOURAD OF THE SYRO-ORTHODOX PATRIARCHATE, SYRIA. "In our Syrian Orthodox Church, we celebrate the divine liturgy in Syriac-Aramaic, the language of our Lord Jesus; and during the divine liturgy the very same words which Jesus said in the Upper Room are recited. And the priest who celebrates this Sacrament, has to celebrate it alone. I feel proud that I live in the Monastery of St. Mark in the Old City of Jerusalem, where Jesus had His Last Supper. ... The presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist is not only His bodily presence, but all His fullness in humanity and divinity. So Lord Jesus is present in all parts of the two elements. ... St. Paul the Apostle exhorts the believer to spiritually prepare himself before he comes to receive holy communion with faith, reverence and a pure conscience, and should cleanse his body and observe the pre-communion fast at 12 midnight. We used to give the sacraments of holy communion to the children immediately after they receive the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation."

Whiny-ass and not-quite-getting-it:

BISHOP JOHN HIND OF CHICHESTER, ENGLAND. "I bring greetings from the Archbishop of Canterbury and request for prayers for Anglicans at a difficult time. ... When is it appropriate to share holy communion? How should we interpret the public giving of communion to the Protestant Frere Roger Schutz? The Eucharist is not primarily a matter or rite or ceremonial but a living of the new life in Christ. If it is to be truly Christian, there must be criteria for mutual recognition. No less important is the extent to which we suffer with each other. ... In the Eucharist it is not our fellowship that is being celebrated, but our reconciliation with God which creates our fellowship. ... If the Eucharist is itself 'Mysterium fidei' then it must follow that our fellowship or communion in the Church is also a 'mysterion,' in other words, speaking something we cannot understand by reason alone. Finally, being united with Christ in His self‑offering orients us not only towards God but also towards every single one of our human brothers and sisters, for whom in their amazing diversity the Son of God gave His life."

Disclaimer: Of course, these are just my impressions, based on the speech excerpts the Vatican press office released, but it is based on a good number of years of reading this kind of stuff.

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