Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Dinner with Orthodox

I had beer at dinner last night, it is easy to forget Advent is a penitential season. I had dinner with some Orthodox friends. What Francis does in ἡ Πόλις, I did in North London. One of my friends joked 'I think one of the reasons your Pope looked so miserable, and turned up late for Vespers was that he discovered that despite it being the Feast of St Andrew it is also the fast of St Philip'. My friends have been fasting since the day after St Philip's day in mid-November and will continue until the Epiphany. So last night, no wine but beer and no fish as it wasn't a Sunday but delicious prawns grilled with garlic and dipped in good vinegar, especially as they had 'a Latin guest, so unused to the discipline of fasting!' As it was a 'joyful' fast there were lots of dates, nuts and fruit at thend of the meal.

We didn't talk much about the Pope's visit but my friends wife thought the Pope a bit sneaky about asking for a blessing for himself, which wasn't too bad but 'for the Church of Rome', that she said 'would be a bit like you blessing a homosexual couple or twice-married people, you can't bless something which all Orthodox regard as sinful'. There was an amusingly frosty look between husband wife, I laughed and said the Pope doesn't 'do' signs and symbols and that I thought that Patriarch Bartholomew's peck on the skull cap, like a father with a child who didn't understand the implications of what he was asking had dealt perfectly with an embarrassing situation that would have had not a few other Orthodox bishops, not to mention those monks of Athos, up in arms. A Cypriot guest recited the times his own bishop had had his own brother, also a bishop, 'struck from the dyptichs'; and then it was time to tune the tambouras and for coffee and music, very good music too and beautiful singing!


Jacobi said...

There is talk again in the Church of Ecumenism, that concept which falsely interpretation has caused such a collapse in Catholic confidence over the last seventy years or so. Union with the Protestant ecclesial bodies it is now clear we can forget, or else we too will follow them as they dissolve into a secularised amorphous Christian-lite vagueness.

But with the Orthodox, it is different. We are close to them doctrinally, something they still take seriously, unlike the current leadership of the Catholic Church which is going through a desperately uncertain period.

The Pope asked for a blessing. Possibly forgiveness ? The sacking of Constantinople must still be yet hard to forgive. Nevertheless Ecumenism with the Orthodox is the only way forward, difficult though it will be.

One further point. We might well re-learn the idea of Fast from the Orthodox, and apply it to the reception of Holy Communion at Mass. A re-introduction of the three hour fast would go a long way towards reversing the now widespread abuse of the Eucharist tolerated by clergy in the present Catholic Church.

David O'Neill said...

How true, Jacobi, we might even remember the Real Presence. One of many (many) pet hates is the way in which the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle is either totally ignored or (even worse) is moved to some obscure corner. It is & must remain the centre of our Faith. Why should we not be fasting (not just an hour) before approaching the Lord our God who allows Himself to be among us? How many (not just laity but priests & religious) pass the tabernacle with a cursory nod of the head?

Nicolas Bellord said...

But David the Church is a democracy. Some years ago a curate took a vote in our local chapel (Horsted Keynes in the much to be celebrated diocese of A&B) on whether the tabernacle should be moved. On a show of hands there was nobody in favour of moving it. So it nonetheless was moved from the wall behind the altar and it now sits on a stick about four feet from its original position. Quite what that was supposed to achieve I still wonder. It must have cost something.

Chloe said...

We went to a family wedding a couple of years ago. My husband and were th only people in the Church to acknowledge the Blessed Sacrament. That included two priests. It was torture

Chloe said...

There are wasn't even a nod of the head

Sixupman said...

Your description of the meal and company, makes me feel hungry and jealous!

Aged parent said...

A large (and I am sure, growing) number of Catholics have never adopted the liberalisation of the fasting rules of the late 50s and 60s and still keep the traditional fasts in Advent, Lent, on Fridays, Ember Days, prior to Communion, etc. Our family happily ignored these liberalisations and seem none the worse for wear for doing so.

I also firmly agree that keeping on friendly terms with the Orthodox is a critical matter, now more than ever, though I admit that some of them on the internet are very difficult to converse with. Some of the distrust, contempt and outright hatred I see is very depressing. Some Orthodox simply don't realize that at this critical hour we should be working together to fight off the most vicious assault on Christianity and even simple human decency in the entire history of mankind.

Having to bear their insults is tough going but I do try in my small way to "turn the other cheek".

George said...

"We are close to them doctrinally, something they still take seriously, unlike the current leadership of the Catholic Church..."

Doctrines like the indissolubility of Marriage? Or use of contraception? Even abortion, they look the other way.

Don't put Orthodoxy up on a pedestal.

Anil Wang said...

WRT the Orthodox, all I can say is that I left the Church without knowing I did before I was to be confirmed, and I wasn't confirmed or continued to go to Church because I was taught indifferentism (i.e. false Ecumenism) and didn't even learn the basics of the faith such as Jesus being God and not just a VIP like Mary. I learned Christianity by marrying a Protestant woman, then drifted to Anglicanism then the Orthodox when I realized the fundamental logical inconsistencies of the former two. But Orthodoxy was different. It had the faith and nourished me more than anything else in my experience.

I would not have looked back to Rome if it were not for three things. First, it's horrible lack of unity and infighting. Schism within Orthodox happen for no other reason than one Patriarch disliking another, and there is some disturbing doctrinal disunity regarding the sacraments of marriage, baptism, and confirmation as well as their response to confirmation and ecumenism. Next there is a strong anti-Roman current within Orthodoxy that defines Orthodoxy as being anything non-Roman. This is taken to ridiculous levels. They would praise the Church Fathers for one virtue and the Buddhists for that virtue, and then condemn Rome for the very same virtue in the next sentence. After I while, I realized that all their objections to Rome boiled down to three things, misunderstandings, parochialism that is not even consistent within Orthodoxy, and resentment (either for past or present political issues). I returned to Rome when I realized there was no reason for schism other than human failings.

Make no mistake, Orthodoxy has its deep material heresies just like Catholicism, but their heresies are in some ways opposite to ours. If we could learn from each other, we would not merely attain unity (which is a supreme good in itself), we would attain better fidelity to Christ and his desires for the Church as our failings are neutralized by theirs.

Robert said...

If the Orthodox value their traditions. Stay well clear of Pope Francis and his new establishment. We don't need a Fr Volpi on Mt Athos. Even though he would have less if no success at all on Athos. They would probably throw him off the mountain from the highest point.

Jacobi said...


I said we are close to them, not in full agreement. There are doctrines other than the Indissolubility of Marriage.

Looking the other way does not mean they reject the doctrine. It means at best incompetence, at worst hypocrisy, something which is widespread amongst our own Hierarchy.

As for the protestant ecclesial bodies, well, we have little in common with them now.

George said...


We have to defend doctrine. But more importantly we have to be careful to avoid attacks on unity in the name of doctrine. I think we often fail to appreciate the importance of unity. Charity is the highest virtue. We are bound together (united) by charity. I think we fail to appreciate the importance of simply dying as a member of the Catholic Church.

The wheat and the tares grow together.

Nicolas Bellord said...

But do not the tares end up in the furness?

Anil Wang said...

George said... But more importantly we have to be careful to avoid attacks on unity in the name of doctrine.

Here's a counterpoint. Look at how St. Nicolas acted at the council of Nicaea.

The Church Fathers knew that the moment you ignore doctrine for the sake of unity, you neither have doctrine nor do you have actual unity. This is the world Protestants (especially Evangelicals) live in. Unity is "maintained" by believing all that really matters is that you love Jesus. Just don't go into too much details what love *really* means or who Jesus *really* is or even what he *really* wants from us since we won't all agree on that and we want to have the "freedom" to change our minds.

No. Doctrines matter. Tradition matters. Neither the Orthodox nor Catholics should abandon one iota of what they consider to be either Doctrines or Tradition. There are, however, a lot of parochial practices, perspectives, and cultural biases in both Orthodoxy and Catholicism that must not get in the way of unity and it is not always clear where the line between Tradition and tradition (of man) is.

Take the issue of the Papacy. One fear behind all the Orthodox anti-papal apologetics is the belief that the Pope can invent new Tradition or even change Tradition. Until Vatican II, that fear was dismissed by Catholics but since Vatican II, many Traditional Catholics including Pope Benedict XVI believe that Pope Paul VI might have over-extended his authority on some issues (e.g. in the synthetic NO liturgy). Today many Catholic bishops and priests also claim more authority over Tradition than they actually have (and some are now key advisors of Pope Francis). The Catholic church needs to seriously look at the Orthodox critiques of the Papacy and the authority of Bishops and priests WRT Tradition and refine its doctrines to deal with these valid concerns. This is not ignoring or abandoning doctrine, it's being more faithful to doctrine than either the Orthodox or Catholic Churches have been.

George said...

"But do not the tares end up in the furness?"

Yes. The problem is not with the tares; it's with the wheat. The wheat doesn't want to be associated with the tares. The wheat doesn't want the tares to contiminate the wheat. The wheat demands that the planter cleanse the field of tares now, lest the wheat be associated with the tares. The wheat refuses to be in communion with the tares. The wheat refuses to be in communion with any other wheat which is in communion with the tares.

The Devil has shown us that he will even use that which is Holy, if he can use it to undermine the unity of the Church. That's his "way": destroy the unity of the Church. Strategically speaking in terms of Ends, Ways, and Means. Ends: Gather souls in Hell; Ways: Separete those souls from the Catholic Church while on Earth; Means: ANYTHING HE CAN. He will use Sacred Scripture; Our Lady; the Holy Mass; Holy Doctrine; anything and everything to separate a soul from the unity of the Catholic Church.

Nicolas Bellord said...

George: So when somebody sees someone else promoting a heresy or doing something very wrong he should do nothing about it. So we should all stand aside and let a few evil people completely take over the Church and lose many souls to damnation as a result.

I think you are misinterpreting the parable which refers to the world rather than the Church. We should not root up and burn the tares but leave that to God. So do not burn heretics. But this does not mean we should not take them to task, argue with them and if necessary exclude them from certain roles.

"To some you must give a hearing, and confute them; others you must pluck out of the fire and rescue them; others you can only pity, while you shun them". Jude 22-23.

It is a question of opposing heresy and teaching doctrine in an intelligent manner!

George said...


I don't disagree with you.

I was attempting to respond to this notion of a "purer" Church. As if the Orthodox, or any body outside the Catholic Church, has something that the Catholic Church needs or is lacking.

I've witnessed several friends and family members cross this fine line between defending holy doctrine to breaking communion with the Church. It's quite easy actually to find yourself on the other side of that fine line. People deceive themselves because they are championing a holy cause. They think this or that righteous cause could never lead them anywhere but to salvation. However, we've seen with plenty of historical examples that this is not true.

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