Authority in Eastern Orthodoxy

I’ve asked this question at least once before – never really getting a straight answer:

Where can I go to get an authoritative exposition of the Eastern Orthodox faith?

For example, I ask a theological question. One Orthodox answers one way, another answers another. I ask two more and again one answers one way, the other answers the other way. I keep going and getting two different answers. To what authority could I go to learn which one Eastern Orthodoxy considers true and correct?

**Berdyayev perhaps too frank, too simple presentation of Orthodoxy but you may understand why you are knocking your head on stones to make Orthodoxy be what it is not.
Nicholas A. Berdyaev
[LEFT]. The Orthodox Church is primarily the Church of tradition, in contrast to the Catholic Church, which is the Church of authority, and to the Protestant Churches which are essentially churches of individual faith. The Orthodox Church was never subject to a single externally authoritarian organization and it unshakenly was held together by the strength of internal tradition and not by any external authority. Out of all forms of Christianity it is the Orthodox Church which remained more closely tied to early Christianity. . In that tradition I have the same experience and the same authority as the Apostle Paul, the martyrs, the saints and the whole Christian world.
Orthodoxy is less the normative form of Christianity (in the sense of a normative-rational logic and moral law) but is rather its more spiritual form. And this spirituality and hiddenness of Orthodoxy were not infrequently the sources of its external weakness. The external weakness and the insufficient development, the insufficiency of external activity and realization affects everyone, but her spiritual life, her spiritual treasures remained hidden and invisible.
Rationalism, legalism and all normatism is alien to Orthodoxy. The Orthodox Church is not defined in rational concepts, it is conceptualized only for those living within it, who are united to its spiritual experience… The mystical types of Christianity are not subject to any kind of intellectual definitions, they do not have any juridical signs nor do they have rational signs. Genuine Orthodox theologizing is theologizing on the basis of spiritual experience. Orthodoxy almost completely lacks Scholastic manuals. Orthodoxy understands itself through Trinitarian religion; not with abstract monotheism but in concrete Trinitarianism. . The West primarily teaches about Grace and free will and about the ecclesiastical organization.

Orthodoxy – Faithfulness to the Holy Tradition Orthodoxy is that Christianity wherein is a greater revelation of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Orthodox Church did not adopt the Filioque, which is seen as a subordination in the teaching about the Holy Spirit. The nature of the Holy Spirit is revealed not so much by dogmas and doctrines but by its action. The Holy Spirit is closer to us, it is more immanent in the world. The Holy Spirit acts directly upon the created world and transfigures creation. Orthodoxy is not only Trinitarian in essence but it sees as the task of its earthly life, the transfiguration of the world in the image of the Trinity and have it become pneumatic [Grk. Spiritual] in essence.
I am speaking about the depths of mysteries in Orthodoxy and not of superficial trends in it. Pneumatologic theology, the anticipation of a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the world arises easier on Orthodox soil. This is** the remarkable particularity of Orthodoxy: on the one hand it is more conservative and traditional than Catholicism and Protestantism but, on the other hand, within the depth of Orthodoxy there is always a great expectation of a new religious manifestation in the world, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, th**e coming of the New Jerusalem.
Orthodoxy is primarily liturgical. It informs and enlightens the people not so much by sermons and the teaching of norms and laws but by liturgical services themselves which give a foreshadowing of transfigured life. It likewise teaches the people through the examples of saints and instills the cult of holiness. But the images of saints are not normative; to them is granted the graceful enlightenment and transfiguration of creation by the action of the Holy Spirit. The hidden mystery of the Holy Spirit’s activity upon creation has not been actually realized by the ways of historical life. Characteristic for Orthodoxy is FREEDOM. The admission of the freedom of conscience radically distinguishes the Orthodox Church from the Catholic Church. But the understanding of freedom in Orthodoxy is different from the understanding of freedom in Protestantism. In Protestantism, as in all Western thought, freedom is understood individualistically, as a personal right, preserved from encroachment on the part of any other person, and declaring it to be autonomous. Individualism is foreign to Orthodoxy, to it belongs a particular collectivism. A rThe Church is not outside of religious persons, opposed to her. The Church is within them and they are within her. **Thus the Church is not an authority. The Church is a grace-filled unity of love and freedom. **Authoritativeness is incompatible with Orthodoxy because this form engenders a fracture between the religious collective and the religious person, between the Church and her members. There is no spiritual life without the freedom of conscience, there is not even a concept of the Church, since the Church does not tolerate slaves within her, but God wants only the free. But the authentic freedom of religious conscience, freedom of the spirit, is made evident not in an isolated autonomous personality, self-asserted in individualism but a unity with a spiritual organism, within the Body of Christ, i.e. the Church.

I just comment on the first part of this quote.

Hogwash! If that were true you’d all be Arians right now. At least the author admits by implication that the Eastern Orthodox Church has forfeited (or chooses not to employ) at least the majority of the authority given by Christ to the Church.

Sounds more like an excuse why the Eastern Orthodox Church hasn’t grown spiritually or theologically in 1000 years. And as I can see, the external weakness is internally manifested, too.

I can see it now – if modern Eastern Orthodox lived in the 5th century. Oh Saint Cyril – we don’t need that mumbo jumbo about Hypostatic Unions. God defies definitions - you legalistic unspiritual Patriarch of Alexandria. You’re too scholastic for our tastes.

Christ is Risen!

I can understand why there are little replies from Orthodox on this thread. You make it apparent that you don’t actually want to know about authority in Orthodox Church, but rather wish to belittle Orthodox because they aren’t Latins. I for one think it’s a shame. :o

In Christ,

No, that article was a bunch of baloney, and I responded accordingly!

The question is legit – because from where I sit, I don’t see how Orthodoxy can claim to be the same Church as the first millenium for a number of reasons.

  1. No continuing growth – for the first millenium, the understanding of the faith constantly grew and was clarified – through Councils, through the writings of the Holy Fathers, through the development of the Liturgy, etc. The Catholic Church has continued in that fashion in the second millenium, continuing the Church’s tradition of allowing the Spirit to lead it to all truth – Orthodoxy has not.

  2. No solid unity – I find it amazing that a Church can actually think that schism is a legitimate way for the Church to function. For example, if a Church that is dependent on another Church (mother-daughter Church relationship) - if the daughter Church wants to be independent must schism with the mother Church and when the smoke settles in a couple of decades, then everything may be back in communion. And this is considered normal! (e.g., the current Russian-Estonian schism).

  3. No real authority – the point of this thread is to ascertain if there is any semblance of authority in Eastern Orthodoxy, because I don’t see it. As I see it, Eastern Orthodoxy is run by a democratic vote (though, monks do seem to get the most say). At no time in the first millenium did the populace effect an attempt to nullify a Council as happened at Florence when the mobs got a hold of the returning Bishops. If the majority of Bishops and populace had full sway as they do now in Eastern Orthodoxy, then you’d be Arians – for almost all of the Bishops fell victims to the heresy. Only Athanasius (who was deposed from his See by synods of Bishops), Pope Liberius (when he wasn’t being tortured by the imperial forces), and a handful of other Bishops stayed the course and consistently taught the true faith.

  4. Not missionary – if the Apostolic Church in the first millenium acted like modern Eastern Orthodoxy, there wouldn’t be a current Church. Eastern Orthodoxy, while not totally devoid of this (I’m reminded of the Russians coming to Alaska), have consistently failed in proclaiming the Gospel to the world. They also take a general attitude of ‘the sheep will come home when they realize they are lost’ instead of actively going after them. There is also a tendency for Eastern Orthodoxy to not be very inviting to outsiders, especially different ethnicities (one of OCA’s primary purposes was to help alleviate this).

  5. shall I go on?

Khrystos Voskres Volodymyr!

If you don’t mind me asking are you under the Moscow or Kyiv Patriarchate? You do not have to answer if do not wish but it may influence how below appears.

Berdayev states “Authoritativeness is incompatible with Orthodoxy”. Well it is an irony then that I believe he may have wrote these terms in exile (I may be wrong) when one Russian Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union was declaring its loyalty to the state and did not recognize the Russian diaspora’s Orthodox Church. Both were claiming authority for their Orthodoxy.

I am more than aware of the incredible joys a soul seems to reach in an Eastern Mass and the soul’s edification, but Orthodoxy in past history has found itself sinking into caesaropapism I believe, the genuine intermingling of Church with State. I mean the Patriarch of Moscow actually rises to his feet when Putin enters the legislature to give his state of the union speech for Russia. Who is the real spiritual authority?

I may be wrong in how you interpret this but I tried to make a starting point because I am not entirely sure what you argument is personally on this, apart from Berdyaev’s notes.

God Bless!

Orthodox do not consider Berdayev a good source for Orthodox teaching.

Orthodox teachings are found primarily in the liturgical texts.

And when you’re not going to change anything, nobody has to be infallible.

I don’t disagree that the Liturgy is catechetical, but you can’t exactly enter into a Q&A session with the Liturgy.

To use the example I’ve used a couple times here already, the Arian heresy. If suddenly the overwhelming majority of Eastern Orthodoxy suddenly found itself Arian, how would I know that Arianism isn’t the true teaching of Eastern Orthodoxy? Who’s voice – a Bishop, Patriarch, Synod, etc. – could I listen to and know that that voice speaks for Orthodoxy over all other, possibly dissenting, voices?

Another example, the majority of Eastern Orthodox agree that in the first millenium the Pope was a court of last appeal. If a Bishop felt that he was maybe deposed unfairly by his Synod, he could appeal to the Pope who would hear the case and the Pope’s decision was final – sort of like an ecclesial Supreme Court. Who fulfills this role of final arbiter in Eastern Orthodoxy today?

The essence of the faith never changes – hasn’t since the original Pentecost. But we constantly are led to a fuller understanding. The Ecumenical Councils of the first millenium (which Eastern Orthodoxy considers valid) were primarily about clarifying the faith. Do you think that this stopped in the first millenium? Do you think we now have a crystal clear picture of the Divine and that nothing more in the Deposit of Faith can be better understood?

Dear Friend:

Orthodoxy can be seen to be same as Church of apostles for similar reasons:

  1. Rejection of novelties. What Catolics see as “growth” is in fact only different teaching than of older church - such as universal control of all churches by Bishop of Rome, his inflability, immaculate conception of Mother of God. These make CATOLICS different from original Church.

  2. Unity with diversity just like ancient church - did not bishop of Rome Kliment write such letters to help Korinf Church accept their canonical bishop just as Patriarch of Moskow now asks Ukrainan and Estonian faithful to accept their canonical bishops.

  3. Authority of Faith. You are quite misinterpreting history to believe that all Church councils were unanimously greeted by a passive Christian population. I only to remind you of Council of Konstantinopl of under Konstantine Foul-Mouth where all monks and all faithful refused to obey to break Holy Icons. In such a way faithful of Rus’ refused to accept bishops sent to them by some foreign Council not keeping the Orthodox faith. You are also very Roman in your belief that supreme inflabible authority of single bishop is a characterstic of anything except an ecclesiastical dictatorship. Read about what happened to those poor bishops who refused to vote for Pope’s infalability at Vatican One Council. Such was action of a dictator. We do not need or want such supreme universal dictatorial authority. Neither did early church.

  4. Missionary. History of Orthodoxy has shown such missionaries to Slavic peoples. Slavic peoples carry faith to asiatic peoples of Rossia beyond Ural mountains, into Aleutic peoples of North America. This all done despite mongol, turk and Arabic islamic oppression - which was facilitated by Frankish and German sacking, descerating and burning Konstantinopl, so that it was weakened. Then despite such wonderful Council of Florence - no help provided to fight Turks when Konstantinopl fallling, despite “brotherly” christian unity at Florence. Not to mention that Catolic Church believing missionary activity is including to entice (заманивать и обманывать) Orthdox faithful to join GrekoCatolic Church.

To Kyiv friend: only canonical orthodox church in Ukraina is that communicating with Patriarch of Moskow, not Filaret of Kyiv.

Baloney (?) is this same as boloney which is a sausage but also means чепуха - or nonsense. Nikolai Berdyaev perhaps was many things - was not a favorite or many Orthodox people, but he is not boloney - he is a well respected filosoph and establishes special filosophic basis of mysticism.

I think there’s some truth to what you’re saying, Harpazo, but I think there’s another reason that this thread got few replies from Orthodox: namely, that there just aren’t a lot of Orthodox on this forum in general. Which is also a shame, because I know that I and a number of my fellow Catholic posters would be very interested in talking with you guys about our similarities and differences.

Same old song and dance.
Ask I question regarding authority in Orthodoxy and the topic gets spun around to Rome, “innovations” & it’s Papal “dictator” :rolleyes:

In the meantime, the question in the OP never gets answered.

Volodymyr, I do not know how good your English is, but you said the Catholic Church is trying to “entice” Orthodox to become Greek Catholics in Ukraine, but then in cyrillic you wrote "obmanyvat’ " which means to deceive or fool in both Ukrainian and in Russian. So somehow the Catholic Church is trying to fool you? You who have Russian state support? How are they trying to cheat you? You’re in Kharkiv. How many Ukrainian Catholics are in Kharkiv?

Question Volodymyr: In 1946, Josyp Stalin and the Russian Orthodox Church liquidated violently the entire Ukrainian Catholic Church, killing its bishops, most of its priests, and many laity. Reverend Kostelnyk was forced by the K.G.B. to join the Russian Orthodox Church when, after they couldn’t get him to convert, they started torturing his son right before his very eyes with blood spurting everywhere, and thus, he agreed to become Orthodox. This was how conversion to Russian Orthodoxy was done. Bishop Khomyshyn of Ivano-Frankivsk, who taught my father, was tortured, mutilated and died for refusing to become Russian Orthodox or to renounce Christ. This happened last century so please do not bring up the middle ages. They were tortured by atheist KGB butchers.

Please note I am NOT speaking about the 14th Century or the 17th Century but modern times, the 20th Century.

As a Christian, do you not think the Russian Orthodox Church should apologize for helping the KGB to kill so many innocent Christians? Are you so proud in Orthodoxy, that your Orthodox rite is more important to you than Jesus Christ and his command to ask for forgiveness when one has sinned?

What if the ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Varfolemey tomorrow grants autocephaly to Filaret in Kyiv and makes his Ukrainian Orthodox Church the sole canonical church in Ukraine? This might happen too. Who will you obey then Volodymyr, the Patriarch of Constantinople or the Patriarch of Moscow. They have already argued a bit about this.

Who is your leader Volodymyr? Is it the Moscow Patriarch or the Constantinople Patriarch?

Khrystos Voskres! Voistynu Voskres! God Bless you.

Шановий пан Андрий Киіва

Багато тоді вбили КГБ - й мого отця- священника, й мого діда - священника. Я тільки бажаю забути! Cтрашний скривавлений був час,

Velyki Sbasybi Volodymyre for the reply. I’m sorry only that my keyboard doesn’t have cyrillic script so I cannot respond in Ukrainian and English.

I did not know you went through this suffering. If you wish me too, I could translate what you have now told me into English, but this is up to you, and perhaps, because it is personal, you maybe do not want to.

It’s remarkable when one hears the cry of a soul, Christ’s mercy automatically comes to mind and my prayers go out to you. Hospody Bozhe Nas, Nam Dopomahai i Zmylodersysia nad Namy. In English, May the Lord Our God help us and have mercy on us.

From what you’ve told me, perhaps it’s not worth getting into any further conflict on this thread.

To the posters who don’t understand, it seems those KGB butchers obviously did not just destroy many Ukrainian Catholic families but other religious families as well. This is the gist of the above post.

Volodymyre, I am not shanovnyj but thanks for the respect.:slight_smile:

Dear Volodymyr, May the Lord Our God watch over Ukraina and let her find true spiritual peace after all she has been through in the 20th century.

Z Bohom, Andrew.

The Russian Orthodox church had been under this kind of persecution for 25 years already, it was almost dead. The founder of my parish in Chicago was the very first of many thousands of priests murdered by the Bolsheviks.

As horrible as it is, the suppression of the UGCC was a political act of an atheist state which had a long vicious practice on the Orthodox. The result was the Sergian state church. I am sorry that it all happened and I am particularly sorry that the Greek-Catholics were dragged into the mess.

I really don’t think any good Orthodox bishop would have wanted the Greek Catholics at that time, most of them were just were not good candidates with the Latin theology they had adopted for themselves and their Latin devotions. The once Orthodox Ukrainians of the western areas had been under the Pope far too long to be made into Orthodox Christians overnight. (I realize that Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky of blessed memory struggled manfully make corrections and restore the church to it’s Orthodox roots but he could only do so much in his lifetime.)

I believe that it was this strong attachment to Latinizations that made them so resiliant, and I mean that in a complimentary truthful way. Most of the individuals who made it out of the Soviet Union from the Lviv region would attach to the UGCC as soon as they could find it, where they could kneel at Mass and say their rosary just as they remembered back home. They never considered themselves Orthodox, and they nurtured such a hate for Russians they nearly forgot how much they hated the Poles.

It was a shotgun marriage bound to fail on a spiritual level. As soon as the government changed, the UGCC was back, with many priests trained in Orthodox seminaries joining in.

Let’s just not forget that the atheist communists considered religion dangerous and wanted churches under their control, like the Roman Catholic church in 1950’s Poland (which dissolved many Orthodox and Greek Catholic parishes alike) and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association today, a church under severe oppressive control cannot be said to be acting on it’s own will.

I don’t think there is a central authority in Orthodoxy – at least I’m not aware of one but I’ve been an Orthodox catechumen for less than a fortnight so I may be mistaken. Nevertheless, I’ve had no trouble discovering what Orthodoxy teaches. My problem was always with myself – whether I could accept those teachings. Coming to that acceptance has taken me several years.

I think one is always likely to find disagreement amongst theologians, particularly the amateur ones. What theological questions did you ask, by the way?


Why don’t you renounce other “novelties”, such as – Hypostatic Union, Liturgy of Saint John Chyrsostom, two wills of Christ, etc. All of these and many more were “novelties” when first presented to clarify the faith handed down from the Apostles – the Catholic Church continues to clarify (not add or subtract from) the faith.

I don’t think that Orthodoxy can claim this. Except for a few isolated experiments, there is only one expression of faith – Byzantine. It doesn’t matter what your culture or nationality, to be Orthodoxy you must conform to a Greek/Slavic outlook of things.

No, the Councils weren’t always met with unanimous support. The Council of Chalcedon wasn’t accepted by the Oriental Orthodox. What was required was the ratification by the Pope. That is why the First Council of Constantinople wasn’t considered Ecumenical until the Pope ratified some 50-60 years later around the time of the Council of Chalcedon – and those canons the Pope didn’t ratify were not included in lists of the official canons of the Council. You cannot claim that this is because every Bishop had to sign off, because the Oriental Bishops didn’t sign off on Chalcedon and it is an Ecumenical Council.

The Pope is not a dictator. He is the shepherd of God’s flock on earth. The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful (CCC 882). If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? (Saint Cyprian)

I don’t deny that Russian Orthodox evangelized Alaska (I mentioned that in an earlier post) – but you can’t claim the same for the missionary work of the Slavic lands. When Saints Cyril and Methodius were commissioned to preach the Gospel to the barbarian tribes there, the Church of Constantinople was still Catholic.

And far too many Orthodox Churches are ethnically closed off. And missionary work is virtually nil. The Orthodox seem to take the approach – the sheep will return when they realize they are lost. But that is not the command of the Lord – He tells us to leave the 99 who are safe and actively find and bring back the 1 who is lost.

As for “enticing Orthodox to join the Catholic Church” – what do you find surprising about that? We believe without a shadow of a doubt that we hold the true faith absolutely. The Orthodox are almost there, but not exactly – and we want you to share in our fullness, too. This will of the Catholic Church is the same as our Lord who prayed that we may be one.

Of course, the Russian Orthodox always complain about Catholics in Russia – Russians should be Orthodox – but find no issue with the Orthodox in, say, Italy. :shrug:

In English idiomatic usage, when something, such as an idea or opinion, is called baloney, it is meant to refer to it being nonsensical.

Several huge problems with this wildly spun history.

  1. This Sergian church of the atheist state continued, without the change of its agents, in the present RO church. It evidently was, and continues to be, the ROC.
  2. The pattern of liquidation of GC churches in territory acquired by Russia antedated the Soviets and their Sergian church. Liquidation was, at every opportunity, the practice of the czars and their pre-Sergian RO church.
  3. However one might argue with a straight-face that “good Orthodox bishops” might not have wanted “Greek Catholics at that time”, it must be conceded that the EP unquestionably accommodated Fr. Chornock and company.

… they nurtured such a hate for Russians…

Someday, when the ROC and its daughters honestly admit and repent of their complicity in crimes against Greek Catholics, healing will be accelerated. Someday they might even put aside their accusations that the Ukrainians nurtured hate. Until then, one should expect the healing to be slow .

dvdjs: Thank you for saying what needed to be said. On reading Hesychios’ post, I just first clenched my teeth and turned the other cheek, as if to accept such unfounded blanket condemnations as “the Ukrainians hate…” was just par for the course, although I couldn’t think of a more unChristian statement that could be made.

Metropolitan Sheptytsky, of blessed memory as Hesychios called him, indeed literally did time in Russian Tsarist prison before the Soviet Union even appeared on the planet.

God Bless.

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