Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Christian Dogmatics and About God

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5. Ecclesiology, Christology, Pneumatology

  • The unity of nature and the manifold persons (hypostases)
  • Unity and manifold status in ancient Hellenic philosophy
  • Augustinian precedence of the Essence, based on ancient Hellenic heritage
  • The one and the many Churches
  • The West's prioritization of the universal Church
  • The conflict between the 1st and the 2nd Vatican Councils
  • The consequences in Ecclesiology of the prioritization of History
  • The participation of the Holy Spirit in the history of the Incarnation
  • Orthodox reactions, with an over-stressing of Pneumatology, and fermentations
  • The significance for Papism, of the prioritizing of History by the West
  • The unity of the Church with Christ, in the Holy Spirit
  • The role of the "healed" saints
  • The ecclesiological dimension of Papists and Protestants
  • The "historizing" of the Divine Eucharist
  • Unimaginable for ancient Hellenic thought the...remembrance of the future
  • The element of Future in History
  • The Eucharistic advent of End Times, in the Spirit



5. Ecclesiology, Christology, Pneumatology

We shall now speak of the ecclesiology of Western theology, on the basis of what we have discerned.

We shall revert to the first principle - the principle of precedence of the Essence. The precedence of the Essence signifies a precedence of objective - of the general - reality. The Essence happens to have just such characteristics: that on the one hand it is objective (ie., in this case, that it precedes the person/hypostasis) and on the other hand it is general, while the person is specific - the same). We again mention here the example of human nature and specific human persons: The "persons" (hypostases) are John, George, Costas.  "Nature" in this case is human nature, which points to something general, while the persons point to something more specific.  Furthermore, "nature" always implies a unity, whereas "persons" points to something manifold, a plurality.  As mentioned earlier, one "person" equals no person. There cannot be a "one person". On the contrary, "one nature" means one nature; "one essence" is one essence.  Thus, when we have a priority of both essence and nature, a priority is also created in the unity with regard to plurality.  The issue of the "one" and the "many" is one of the basic issues of both philosophy and theology, but also of ecclesiology - and in fact with existential consequences, because it is a serious problem:

Let us begin with ancient Hellenic philosophy, because that is where our mother is - our roots... that is where our thought is rooted. When we say "our", we aren't referring to Greeks alone, but at least all Europeans - the Westerners, to whom we too now belong as Hellenes - as descendants of classical thought... So, in ancient Hellenism, the "One" always had precedence over the "many". It is characteristic, that from Heracletus (who is one of the first to shape ancient Hellenic thought), from Parmenides and all the pre-Socratic philosophers, the "One" is especially stressed: ie., that all the world is a unity. However, this unity is not pursuant to something; it comes before all else.  The "One" is that which has the leadership, and plurality must compromise with the "One" in order to exist correctly. That is the meaning of the term "ξυνός λόγος" (common reason) in Heracletus; that is the meaning we observe, with all its tragic consequences, in ancient tragedies and in Plato also, when he says: "You should be careful, as you - the segment - exist because the whole and the One exist, and you must conform to the whole".  Precedence is therefore given here, whereby, in neo-Platonic philosophy the said "One" with its "effluences" becomes "many".  But this plurality (the "many") is, consequently, not only secondary as regards the One, but is also a form of deterioration, a worsening of the One.  And that is why eventually, throughout all of neo-Platonic soteriology, man must -by means of the soul- re-unify the many and restore them to the One.  That is the only way that the cycle of salvation could be achieved: by collecting the "many" into the One.  Hence, plurality -the "many" - is something secondary, something derived, and a deterioration of the One.  This was all in ancient Hellenic philosophy.

Unfortunately, in Western theology (and again, because the roots of Western theology in its theoretical form are found in Augustine, who is influenced by neo-Platonism) this scheme - this system of placing the One before the many - is also transferred into Triadic theology, and the Essence is thus placed (as already mentioned) before the Persons (hypostases).  It is precisely because this way of thinking is prevalent and determinant of Western theology, that this mentality is carried over to Ecclesiology as well. And that is where we shall see analytically the consequences that it brings about.

We shall begin with a basic principle. The Church is one; this is an ecclesiological principle that we all accept. However, the Church is simultaneously many Churches. So, what comes first? Logically - that is, theologically and axiologically - what comes first?  Which is the true Church? The one, or the many Churches?

Western theology has clearly taken the stance that the one Church in the entire world - the universal Church, the ecumenical Church - is logically precedent.  The individual, local Churches follow and they must conform to the one Church.  This took on a specific form in Western Ecclesiology, and reached the point of regarding the universal Church, the ecumenical, one Church in the world, as something that has its own structure, its own existence, above all the local Churches.  This structure is a familiar one. It is expressed precisely by the function of the pope, who is not just a bishop of one, local Church, but an ecumenical bishop; a bishop who is the head of the entire Church - the one, worldwide Church. Ratzinger, together with Rahner had published a book some years ago, in which the distinction that Rahner makes (and is a very subtle and profound one, between the essence and the existence of the Church) hints exactly that the essence of the Church is found in the ecumenical Church, which exists in the form of the individual, local Churches.

But the question is (just as we have the question in Triadic theology "whether the Essence precedes the Persons/hypostases", we likewise have the related question):  Does the one, ecumenical Church precede the several, local Churches, or not?  And the answer given by Western theology to this question is YES.  Even Rahner, who tries to take a few steps forward with his distinction between the essence and the existence of the Church, is attempting to say that for the one Church to exist, it must definitely have the local Churches; that it cannot exist without the local Churches. And yet, despite all this, it is regarded as being logically precedent.  This concept of "logically precedent" took on a specific form in ecclesiology, mainly during the Vatican II Council, with the infallibility of the pope and the principle that all bishops must agree with the pope.  This is not a legalistic issue. Its roots are found precisely within the principle of the precedence of the One and the Essence, versus the many and the several.  We need to delve deep into theology, not superficially - the way we see things at first glance. In the end, everything leads to common, deeper roots.

This ecclesiology of precedence of the One versus the many - and the essence versus the several - as officially decided by the Vatican I Council, was somewaht amended by the Vatican II Council.  And here is the crucial point that we find ourselves today:  Did the Vatican II Council in fact amend the Vatican I Council on this point regarding the precedence of the ecumenical Church, or didn't it?  Everything hinges on this, because if Roman Catholic theology reaches the point of accepting that the local Churches are NOT second to the one, ecumenical Church, then it will automatically reach the conclusion that the pope is similarly NOT precedent to the other bishops but is himself a bishop, and that the local Churches who express themselves through their own, local bishops, are equally determining factors for the unity of the Church.  In other words, the multiplicity of the Churches is the determining factor for the unity; it is not the unity that is the determining factor for the multiplicity, or, rather, that the two should somehow coincide.  This, therefore, is the crucial point that ecclesiology is at.

All those who study the Vatican II Council can see that it did NOT amend the Vatican I Council, but that instead, it introduced a new ecclesiology, which must now compromise with the ecclesiology of Vatican I.   This new ecclesiology bestows a "catholicity" (universality) to a local Church, and that is where the well-timed problem resides.  Up until that time, the Roman Catholic Church identified the catholic Church with the ecumenical one. Influenced by Orthodox theologians in the West, Western theology began to acknowledge that each and every local Church is "catholic" (universal) and complete, under its bishop.  This too was inserted in the Vatican II Council.  But the catholicity of the local Church conflicts with the catholicity of the ecumenical one and consequently, we have here once again the problem of precedence of the One or the many, and the need to find a way out of it.

If one were to carefully study Roman Catholic theology today, they would see that it is in a state of confusion. From the moment that it allowed that Orthodox current to enter, new possibilities for approaching Orthodoxy in ecclesiology were created - possibilities that were of extreme importance.  On the other hand, dilemmas were created within Roman Catholic theology, which are discerned today among Roman Catholic theologians: they must either shift towards the guideline that Orthodoxy has somehow introduced, and acknowledge the catholicity of a local Church (with all the consequences that this entails, especially with regard to the pope's primacy), or, they must back-step and re-acknowledge the Vatican I Council's decisions, where the authorities of the pope above local bishops are once again given priority.  This is the dilemma that Roman Catholic theology and its "Church" are suffering from today.  Attempts have been made by the Roman Curia to legalize by means of a law that they have named "Lex fontamentalis" the authority of the pope versus the bishops; the reactions that arose within the Roman Catholic family were indeed impressive...

There are many who can foresee - and Lossky has already pointed out - the consequences of the Filioque on ecclesiology, mainly because the Filioque with its prioritization of the essence as opposed to the Person (hypostasis), has placed nature first.  Lossky proposes a form that lies between Christology and Pneumatology; he places Christology before Pneumatology and identifies Pneumatology with the "many" - with multiplicity - and Christology with unity. This is a form that requires much discussion, but it does also have many truths inside it. We will eventually move on to all of the consequences in our forthcoming lessons; meantime, we have only set out the basis that this whole story of prioritizing the essence versus the person/hypostasis(which we also link to Triadic theology and especially with the matter of the Filioque) has direct consequences for ecclesiology.

In Western theology, we have examined until now the prerequisites, we have seen what the characteristics of Western thought are, and then we moved on, to see how all these characteristics are expressed in theology - in specific topics of theology.

We examined the difference between Theology and Oekonomia (Providence). We also had a look at the matter of the Filioque and its consequences, and now we shall move on, to other aspects of theology - which will pertain purely to Oekonomia (Providence).

On the matter of God's existence itself, we said what we had to say on Western theology: first of all,  that it does not make any clear distinction with respect to Oekonomia (Providence); that it confuses the issue; that it places these Trinitarian relationships that we see in Oekonomia into theology, and that the Filioque is a consequence of this, etc...

In Western theology, a trend is observed where Christology is overemphasized to the detriment of Pneumatology, and this of course has an effect on ecclesiology. This is attributed to the fact that Christology is mainly preoccupied with historical realities - with the Incarnation, with the Life of Christ.  And as we mentioned earlier, Western thought has the tendency to be interested in History. The Holy Spirit - Pneumatology - on the other hand is the exact opposite. The role of the Holy Spirit in Oekonomia (Providence) is to free the Son from the bonds of History, because with the Incarnation, the Son took upon Himself all the consequences of man's Fall. He became Adam, and then penetrated History with all the negative meaning that the Fall had given it. He entered spatial-temporal History; the Son was (physically) born in Nazareth of Palestine; He was born during the reign of Augustus Caesar, at a specific point in Time. He was crucified during the time of Pontius Pilate... in other words, He took History exactly as it is experienced by us, and became a part of that History. However, History -as we have lived it- contains negative existential consequences, because inside it is Death.  My history for example -as I experience it- has within it the fact that once upon a time I didn't exist; that my father used to exist but he no longer exists now; and that I shall not exist after a number of years.  Death is intertwined with historical existence - with Time.  And this is the situation that the Son entered, in His Incarnate form.

The Spirit did not become incarnate, nor did the Father of course become incarnate. The Father does nothing more than condescend - because He is the source of every gift of God... just like when we say the words "the Father of Lights" in the prayer that is offered behind the pulpit (which priests inappropriately cite before the Icon of Christ, as the prayer is addressed to the Father and the Persons should not be confused between them; it is a dogmatic slip-up).  Therefore, we have the words "...from You, the Father of Lights...".  This is the role that the Father has: He condescends - to the Incarnation and to the advent of the Spirit.  It is the Son Who becomes incarnate. The Spirit does not become incarnate, and as such, is not subject to the consequences of History, which contains the Fall and Death.  However, the Spirit does have His own role: it is not that He merely doesn't become incarnate; the Spirit is precisely the One Who stands by the Son during the entire period of His Incarnate state, liberating Him from the negative consequences of the Incarnation.

We have here an extremely significant detail, which we Orthodox continuously forget, and it is at the point of the Resurrection, which is the Son's release from the state of Death. The Son - when deigning to put on flesh - also deigned to undergo Death along with it, as a part of History, and by doing this, was crucified and subjected to the pain of the Cross and Death. However, He was freed in the end. In the end, He does not undergo Death - He is not conquered by Death - He overcomes Death, with His Resurrection. Many people forget that the Resurrection of Christ occurred through the Holy Spirit.  The Father raises the Son from the dead, through the Holy Spirit. Instead of this, the idea that prevailed was that Christ's divine nature somehow conquered Death.  That is not correct - not even Scripturally (because we have clear testimonies that the Father raises the Son through the Spirit), nor from the Patristic point of view is it correct (because the natures do not act on their own).  These were ideas by Leo I - the pope who introduced to the 4th Ecumenical Council the so-called "reciprocation by the characteristics of the natures", however, Cyril insisted more on "hypostatic union".  Whatever takes place in Christology is a matter of Persons (hypostases), and is not simply a matter of natures.

So, we should not forget that the Spirit has a very significant role to perform within Christology - that role being His constant presence at the side of the Son during the adventure of His Incarnation.  The Spirit stood by Him in the desert where He went to fast; the Spirit stood by Him in Gethsemane where He was to make the big decision... The Son was NOT on His own when He did those things; He did not make those decisions on His own. No, it is not perchance that the Spirit followed Him in all these instances. The Spirit therefore had a very important role to perform: the role of opening History towards End Times - the liberating of History from the boundaries, the limitations of createdness.  And that is why the Spirit is also linked to Theosis (deification) and all the rest...  When one transcends the boundaries of createdness and death, then it is the Spirit Who is present and playing the leading role. However, because the Spirit has no links to History - that is, He did NOT lead Christ towards His subjugation to History but instead, caused Him to be liberated from it - that is the reason, when someone has tendencies like the Westerners have towards History (and examine everything through the prism of History), that they find something more interesting in Christology. And that is why they developed Pneumatology (theories dealing with the Holy Spirit); or, when they developed Pneumatology, why they did not link it organically to Christology.  One of the basic consequences that this wrought on Ecclesiology was that they saw the Church as a historical reality - basically, as the body of Christ in which the role of the Holy Spirit was somehow a decorative role ("let's add a little bit of Holy Spirit to liven it up" as they said in Western theology, "and make the Holy Spirit the soul of the Church"). In other words, we build the edifice of the Church with a Christological-material body of Christ - a historical community which has its historical form - and then deposit the Holy Spirit inside it, to act accordingly. In this way, the Holy Spirit is not placed within the foundations of the Church, and as the One that builds the Church - that the Spirit is in the basis of the Church.  And that is how we can see the deviation in Western theology: it is always towards Christology and sometimes even towards "Christ-only-ness" - that is, the highlighting of Christ only, and forgetting about the Holy Spirit altogether.

This was the situation that the Orthodox theologians had reacted against. This detail was focused on, mostly during the previous century in Russia by the Slavophiles with Khomiakov, however they now reached the other extreme, by regarding (as Orthodox and anti-Western) that the Church should be seen basically as a communion with the Holy Spirit, and not as the body of the historical Christ. This immediately creates an antithesis which is a very serious one and which we Orthodox are faced with to some degree in our day: the antithesis between the charismatics who have the Spirit and the ordinary successors of bishops who have Apostolic succession. And we tend to say that these are the historical matters, while the Holy Spirit deals with the charismatics. This is precisely the result of that over-stressing; in fact, there are many nowadays who assert that the Church is essentially a community of charismatics. If so, then what are the simple Christians? Doesn't the Spirit have anything to do with them?  They claim that Baptism does not impart the Spirit. How can Baptism NOT impart the Spirit, given that it is  the mysteries (sacraments) that impart the Spirit?

As opposed to what the West did, we Orthodox took Ecclesiology from its historical basis and placed it on a Pneumatological basis. And the first to teach this view were the Slavophiles in Russia, with Khomiakov.

Florovsky opposed Khomiakov's position, however, he leaned far more heavily towards the other extreme and made Ecclesiology a mere chapter of Christology.  So, in reacting against Khomiakov and -justifiably- reproaching him for having made the Church a communion of the Spirit, Florovsky gave more of a sociological meaning to the Church and underrated History, thus somehow falling into the same Western pitfall.  Then there were others who followed him (Lossky, Nisiotes), also over-stressing Pneumatology in Ecclesiology, by dwelling in this precise antithesis with the West: that in this way, you supposedly become more Orthodox - you are more Orthodox - always in the good sense; that you have gone to extremes, but have differentiated yourself from the West.  And so, this form of Orthodoxy is placed first:  the Holy Spirit to the detriment of Christology in Ecclesiology. Even so, the stressing of Christology continues to be a Western phenomenon.

Therefore, when we say "Western theology" we must always keep in mind that: together with (and because of) the over-stressing of History, we also have an over-stressing of Christology, to the detriment of Pneumatology; that Pneumatology has only a secondary and decorative role.  In Roman Catholicism this is made obvious in their Ecclesiology, by the fact that they also over-stress historical succession and the historical privileges of the hierarchy.  Furthermore, their entire Ecclesiology - the Papist one that gravitates around the notion of the Pope - is justified precisely by means of the argument of historical privileges. In other words, they attempt to prove that the Pope has a historical succession to Saint Peter... this aspect matters very much to them.  If they prove historical succession -the historical link- then the Ecclesiological argument is -to them- a convincing one.  From the Orthodox point of view, this is not sufficient.  But even if it were proven (which it cannot be), again it is not enough, because for us, the Church is not simply a community that is perpetuated historically through Time; it is the charismatic element that penetrates the foundations and the institutions of the Church. Consequently, with regard to our association with Western theology, we always have -and must have- this problem in mind: how to have a proper synthesis of Christology and Pneumatology within Ecclesiology.

By giving precedence to Christology, Western theology created the following situation with regard to the Church:  The Church basically became the Body of Christ for the Roman Catholics; for the Protestants, it became a community which follows Christ and His teaching and listens to His Word -the Gospel- and thus, one could say that between Christ and the Church, a relationship of distance is created. The head and the body do not coincide; they are not fully joined, because the Holy Spirit has not entered it from the very first moment in order to create the kind of community that the Spirit does, by freeing beings from their separateness, from the boundaries of an individual.

The Holy Spirit creates persons; He creates a community. When we place Pneumatology at the basis of Christology, then we won't have Christ in the lead and a group following behind Him; instead, we have Christ as a Person, Who includes all of us inside Him.

The Church, therefore, is made in this manner: it is a community which has its identity not in itself but in Christ Humself, because She is so joined to Christ that there can be no mention of Her being, without a reference to Christ. This, for example, is how we Orthodox speak of the sanctity of the Church: that it is part of Her very nature; that it is the very being of the Church.  Why is that? (given that She is Holy)... Where does the Church draw Her sanctity from? Well, we provide the answer in the Divine Liturgy, every time we say "One is Holy, one is Lord: Jesus Christ".  The "saints" to which the precious Gifts are given are the members of the community.  The members of the community are sinful; and yet, they are called "saints". But, in their awareness of not being saints, they respond to the aforementioned words by saying: "One is Holy..."

If the being - the identity - of the Church - "ecclesiology" - were the community per se, in contrast to Christ, then it would be scandalous to say that the Church is holy.  In the ecumenical movement nowadays, we continuously confront that problem. The Protestants rebel and consider it blasphemous to say that the Church is holy, and they always respond with this position: "Are you out of your minds? How can the Church be holy? Can't you see the sin that prevails?

In a Pneumatology that the Orthodox lean towards - one that acts to the detriment of Christology - the answer to this would be that the few saints, the charismatics, are the Church and therefore, when we say that the Church is Holy, we are implying the saints.  Well, no. That is not the answer that the Liturgy at least gives us. In the Liturgy, when we say "the precious gifts, to the saints", the answer is not that it implies "to a few saints" and as such, those few provide the note of holiness. Christ is the One Who provides the note of holiness.  "One is Holy" - there is none second.  Even if all the saints gather together before Christ, they are sinners.

Therefore, the answer to the Protestants who say: "can't you see? How can you call the Church holy, with so much sin in there?" it is not because we have our saints and that is where we base our position that the Church is holy. No! The answer is that the Church - Her being - the "I" of the Church - is Christ.  As the Chrysostom says, the union of head and body is so tight and impenetrable, that if one were to even think of making such a distinction, they would risk leading the body to its death. Because that which gives life to the body is the head. And it is the union with the head that ensures life and holiness to the body.

Consequently, the Westerners are constantly drawing us into traps. And everything depends on the correct relationship that we ascribe to Christology and Pneumatology...  God forbid that we separate the two! Because they have been separated, in the West. And quite often, this notion of the few and charismatic is also reminiscent of the West: the idea that this is the purpose of the Holy Spirit in History, to choose a few individuals, be preoccupied with them, and leave all the others to Christ, to History. Thus, Pneumatology is for the Saints, it is about the Saints, and Christology is about History - about that general, main corpus in which the Church moves.

So, if we Orthodox were to regard Pneumatology in its proper relationship to Christology, we must forget all these notions of an elite of saints, of Spirit-bearers.  Pneumatology - when linked organically with Christology - affects the entire corpus of the Church, and not just a few individuals.  For Orthodoxy, there are no charismatics in this sense.  This, therefore, is the characteristic of Western thought, which the East had fallen into from the beginning with the Slavophiles, and continues to fall, up to this day.

[Note inserted by OODE:  It is a fact, that we do not speak of an "elite of Saints", just as the Rev. John of Pergamon says. The notion of any kind of elite has its roots in Frankish chauvinism/racism. We instead speak of the Healed (and therefore the enlightened and God-bearing ones).  Saints are those members of the Church - the pieces of Her flesh - who have completed their therapy. And having been healed, they are able to help other members be healed.  Hence, God does not preoccupy Himself with an "elite" only, but uses those who have been cleansed by His Grace to heal the rest. He uses them, because only they are better informed about matters of God, given that they alone have cleansed their spiritual eyes. Of course this is not elitism, because all of us have been called to become Saints. It is a matter of personal choice if we want to or not. The fact that one is a member of the Church - through Baptism - does not mean that he can know about God or theologize, because, how can someone blind from birth describe the Sun? By only having heard of it? Is that possible? It is also meaningless for us to try to discover "what the Church is" segmentally. The "Church" is Christ, and if the theumens (deified ones) are of some value, it is precisely because they express His Will, and not because they are worthy on their own. They are not self-luminous; they are illuminated by others. All of us can and must become Saints - that is the basic purpose to the existence of the Church.]

Going back now, to Western theology, we shall see that this distinction - this distance (in actual fact a splitting apart) - between Christology and Pneumatology has led the West to an internal speculation, between Roman Catholics and Protestants; a speculation that they also wanted to positively drag us into, as of the 17th century, with the Confessions - a speculation that has the following content, more or less:

Can the Church relate to the historical community - does She relate to the historical community, or not? If She does relate to the historical community, then She relates to Christology.  The Roman Catholics said yes, the Church absolutely relates to the historical community. The Protestants reached the point of developing the idea of an invisible Church; that is, that the actual essence of the Church is NOT in the historical community. So they would ask us Orthodox: "What do you say?" If one were to read the confessions, they would see that essentially we are not saying anything, and in essence we have embraced a speculation that is not Orthodox, because to us, the historical reality of the Church becomes mainly connected (within the Divine Liturgy, the Eucharist), with the eschatological reality, through the notion of imagery. With us, everything is depicted. And this precise depiction is created by the Holy Spirit, Who brings together (in an organic and dialectic relationship, but also in a relationship of unity), History and all things eschatological.

Consequently, for us Orthodox it is not a matter of whether the Historical or the Eschatological Church is "the" Church. We Orthodox bypass all this, only if we place the Divine Eucharist as the centre of Ecclesiology.

And so, we now arrive at another crucial point. The West was never able to place the Divine Eucharist as the centre of Ecclesiology, because first of all, it looked upon the Divine Eucharist clearly through the prism of History. It isolated it from Eschatology, just like it did to all of the mysteries (sacraments). And the West once again dragged us into its own speculations. During the Reformation and the anti-Reformation, the question was posed whether the Divine Eucharist is a "repetition of the sacrifice on Calvary" or not.  If one were to read the confessions of Peter Mogilas and the others that had appeared, it will become obvious that we too have embarked on this discussion, because the West was intent on seeing the Eucharist as the continuation of an historical event.

But for us - if we study the Divine Liturgy carefully - we can see that the Divine Eucharist is a combination of an historical and an eschatological event. "Remembrance" for us is not necessarily the remembrance of an historical event of the past. That is why we see that paradox in the Divine Liturgy, which the Westerners truly cannot "swallow" or understand. Recently, they drafted a very beautiful English translation of the Liturgy of John the Chrysostom, but they just could not accept the wording of the prayer that precedes the citing of "Thine own, of Thine own, do we offer unto Thee, by all and for all..." and "Keeping therefore in mind the salvific commandment [...] and of the Second and glorious Coming...".  They would say: "What is this? How can one say this in English - in the Western manner - that we should remember the Second Coming? Remember an event that hasn't taken place yet?  What kind of remembrance is that?"  This is truly a scandal, for Western thought.

It is not just the Western mentality here; it is also Hellenic Philosophy behind this whole story. And for Hellenic Philosophy, "remembrance" likewise implies a remembrance of the past. This is the crucial point of conflict - the complete overturning of Hellenic thought.  It is simply impossible for an ancient Hellene to state "a remembrance of the future".  Whatever an ancient Hellene remembers is an unfolding of the Past. Well, this is what the Westerner also sees, in his own historical conscience. Up until the 18th century, the notion of "History" was not as developed as it is nowadays - not even in the West; however, it is not that historical conscience was not developed in the West. Historical conscience - historism - is to go and find the events the way they occurred, but essentially without their meaning - which may quite possibly be eschatological. It is truly a betrayal, not only of History, but also of human logic, when the Westerner confuses these. 

It is a disrespect for the truth on his part, when one states all sorts of un-historical things (for example in the Bios of Saints). If one were to take such a Bios and examine it with a historical conscience, it will create problems. History, historical conscience, means to actually locate the time and the place in the Past, to perceive it as an event that the mind can perceive and confine within intelligible boundaries, and that is what they call History.  In which case, what role can the Holy Spirit play? It is Christology that prevails here, because it again is perceived as a series of events of the Past. As mentioned earlier, "...in remembrance of the Cross, of the Tomb, of the third-day Resurrection, of the ascent to the heavens..." all these are located, and are placed within a timeframe. "...during Pontius Pilate...", "...after three days..." - so far, so good.

But when we interpose the element of the future, the remembrance thereof, then that is where we part ways with the West. Do you see how deep all these things go, even with regard to the general perception (which is also the mentality), but also with regard to Christology and Pneumatology, because the element of Future also penetrates History.  Christ introduces God into History, while the Holy Spirit brings the endmost events into History. "...In these final days I shall pour forth from My Spirit upon every flesh..."

Christians saw the Pentecost as the arrival of the endmost events.  The Westerner sees the Pentecost and the Holy Spirit as something that illuminates so that he can understand and strengthen him to understand historical events.  But that is not what it is. I am taken into another dimension altogether - I am transported to another dimension, which is the dimension of the Future, and it is He Who places me there. History and Time are also placed there, thus freeing me of the confinement, the boundaries that Time and Space entail, which are expressed mainly with death.  And that is also why the Spirit is simultaneously life-giving, while bringing the endmost events into History.

We experience all these things during the Divine Eucharist. To us, the Eucharist is the advent of the endmost times, and not a repetition. We do not have that concern, which they had during the Reformation (whether it is or isn't a repetition of Calvary). But unfortunately, if we open up our Dogmatics books, that is what we will read. It is something however that does not preoccupy us; it is a Western concern, because for us it is not a repetition, nor is it the continuation of a certain past. It is the penetration of the Future inside Time, which of course creates a new event each time. And that new event is the Eucharist. The Divine Eucharist is a new incarnation each time; a new Crucifixion, an new Resurrection, a new Ascension and at the same time a new Advent once again and a new Judgment.  That is why it (the Eucharist) has all the "trappings" of Judgment that the Divine Eucharist always had, and hence the reason that one cannot approach it unworthily. It is not perchance so. The world is being judged. "Now is judgment upon the world".  The word "now" of the 4th Gospel is referring precisely to the Divine Eucharist, because the experience that envelops the Gospel is eucharistic.

Thus, we have new events, but of course without a rift with History involved. Therefore, for us there is a historic continuum, except that the dimension of the Future - the dimension of the endmost events that liberates History from its confines - enters into it.  With all of the aforementioned, one can  perceive how easy it is for us Orthodox to succumb to Western thought, Western theology, with realizing it.  That is why we should always have that special sensitivity as Orthodox, whenever we hear theological positions. And we should always place them under that criterion in the case of the West.

The West does not have the eschatological approach embodied in History.  It has separated History and Eschatology, so either the endmost events are an entirely separate chapter of events that are to take place afterwards (like it also is in our own, Orthodox Dogmatics), or, it is regarded as a charismatic experience of a few, which is to be separated from History. But that is how we dissect Ecclesiology: we split it into the Church of Saints and the Church of the historical community. Two different things.  If we also refer to the historical community as "Church", it is likewise a Western trait.  The eschatological approach must be incorporated into the historical one, and for us, that actually does take place, during the Divine Liturgy - the Eucharist - and nowhere else.  Outside the Divine Eucharist, we can easily result in the aforementioned dissection.


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Transcript by: T. B.

Translation by A. N.

Article published in English on: 2-8-2011.

Last update: 2-8-2011.