I’ve read some things from the Orthodox book the Primacy of Peter, including Alexander Schmemann’s essay in that book–“the Idea of Primacy in Orthodox Ecclesiology” which explains the Orthodox understanding of primacy.
Schmemann acknowledges that the fathers and councils unanimously acknowledge Rome as the senior church and center of ecumenical agreement.
But as I understand it, he believes that this primacy was not one of power but one of grace and truth: Rome had a primacy as long as she was serving the other churches and teaching the truth.
Off the top of my head, as I understand it, the Orthodox believe
–each local church, united to its Bishop, is the fullness of the Church
–primacies are purely voluntary agreements which express and preserve the unanimity of the local churches
–the local church is not “part” of a “whole”.
–there is no power over a local bishop.
I also read another article at the Orthodox Christian Information Center by a man named Kalomiros, which says that the minute a local Bishop teaches heresy, he ceases to be a Bishop.
Is all this–my understanding–correct?
Also, why do the Orthodox believe in the need for bishops? Why not just local priests?
Mostly correct, but here are some clarifications:
*]Each diocese contains the fullness of the church, while also being part of the larger worldwide church.
*]The synod a bishop is a part of has organizational power over the individual bishops. This can vary between Orthodox churches. Some exercise more control over their members than others. However, the bishop is ultimately the final authority in his diocese.
*]In the early church, there were only bishops and deacons. The priesthood came about later to act as representatives of the bishop when he couldn’t be there. Priests serve at the bishop’s pleasure and can’t do a single thing (ecclesiastically of course) without his permission. If you attend an Orthodox hierarchical liturgy, the priests do very little and 99% of the service is done by the bishops and deacons. So in a way, the bishops are the local priests you’re thinking of.
I’m confused because Schmemann and others insist that the diocese is not a part of a larger whole.
They explicitly reject the ideas of parts and whole because they think that leads to a universal ecclesiology, which means that there would need to be a single Bishop with supreme power.
The synod a bishop is a part of has organizational power over the individual bishops. This can vary between Orthodox churches. Some exercise more control over their members than others. However, the bishop is ultimately the final authority in his diocese.
I believe that Schmemann teaches that there is no power over the local Bishop. The article “Papal Primacy” by Rev. Emmanuel Clapsis also says there is absolutely no power over the Bishop. (This article is at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese website).
In the early church, there were only bishops and deacons. The priesthood came about later to act as representatives of the bishop when he couldn’t be there. Priests serve at the bishop’s pleasure and can’t do a single thing (ecclesiastically of course) without his permission. If you attend an Orthodox hierarchical liturgy, the priests do very little and 99% of the service is done by the bishops and deacons. So in a way, the bishops are the local priests you’re thinking of.]
Thank you. That helps.
I guess I’m wondering why there is a hierarchy of Bishops and priests. In other words, if the Bishop couldn’t be there, then why didn’t he relinquish control of the places he couldn’t be?
Re: Orthodox “Eucharistic Ecclesiology” Questions
Originally Posted by prodromos View Post
… he is stating that there is no Bishop of Bishops, not that bishops do not have to answer to the synod of their brother bishops.
And he is stating his personal opinion, an opinion that is not held dogmatically in the EOC.
I challenge you to find any EO bishop or theologian who has stated that there is a Bishop of Bishops.
I don’t think that Schmemann is only saying there is no Bishop of Bishops. As I understand it, he is also saying that synods do not have power over local Bishops.
The article “Papal Primacy” by Rev Emmanuel Clapsis at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America says that there is absolutely no power over the individual bishop. He also says,
“The synod is not “power” in the juridical sense of the word, for there can exist no power over the Church, the Body of Christ.” goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8523
As far as this not being dogmatic, I’m sure that’s true. But that is my question: what is the dogmatic ecclesiology of the Orthodox?
I know that in the book “the Primacy of Peter”, Fr. Afanassieff says that the Orthodox have no systematic doctrine of Church government, and that their doctrine about Ecumenical Councils is not enough to refute the Catholic idea of Papal supremacy.
His solution–and I think Fr. Schmemann’s solution–was Eucharistic theology, which is a rejection of the idea that the Church is a universal body composed of parts.
But is it dogmatic Orthodox ecclesiology to reject the idea that the Church is a universal body composed of parts?
Another thing which I believe it says in the EO book by Meyendorff–the Primacy of Peter–in the essay by Schmeman: is that at the time of the East-West Schism, the East’s rejection of Papal Supremacy was not based so much on a clear, Orthodox ecclesiology, but on negative feelings about Rome or about the West.
So again, to rephrase my question from my last post: if “Eucharistic theology”–as put forward by late authors like Afanasseff and Schmemann—is not dogmatically Orthodox, then what is the dogmatically Orthodox ecclesiology?
A related question is: what is the objective standard for determining which councils are Ecumenical?
I asked this of some Orthodox and was told “truth” and the “belief of the whole Church”. But this didn’t clarify things for me very much, because I don’t think it’s the lay person’s job to determine Christian dogma for themselves.
And also, “the belief of the whole Church” seems very vague.
I’ve also been rudely treated by some people lately, so I appreciate the civility of anyone who answers.
Obviously I’m Catholic and not Orthodox, but I also want to keep things very civil, despite being a sinner.
By the way, I meant “Eucharistic ecclesiology” above, not Eucharistic theology.
Oh, and another question I have related to all of this is: were any councils–claiming to be Ecumenical–held in the Catholic Church or in the Orthodox Church in order to address the schism between East and West?
I’m guessing that some of the Western Councils like Lyons and Florence were meant to address these issues.
But were there any Eastern Councils held in response to the East-West schism?
So yeah there is no single answer to your question regarding Ecumenical councils. In fact, there are various schools of thought within the Orthodox Church on this one. I’d be happy to explain my position, which isn’t too different from the answer you have already received.
Historically, there are two things that make a council ecumenical in the Orthodox view: 1) that a significantly large number of bishops (and laymen too) attend the council from a relatively “international” geographic area. Of course, over the centuries the “world” of the Christian Church has expanded to include the entire globe.
That the council teach correct doctrine.
#2 is probably the biggest difference between Catholics and Orthodox. Catholics can usually look at a council, see if a pope participated, and see if he wrote or said anything regarding its validity. Once that check is done, the case is closed and then it is ecumenical and infallible. The implication of the Orthodox position is that a council by virtue of its process does not make its teachings infallible. Rather, a doctrine is justified solely by the merits of the argument. Now this usually leads to accusations of sounding very Protestant. I can’t fully deny that accusation, but I will say that we do temper this idea with a high reverence for tradition.
In short, there is no true objective standard for determining if a council is ecumenical in Orthodox understanding. For example, the Orthodox understand Chalcedon to be ecumenical, but the Jacobites say that although it was widely attended, it did not teach correctly. These are unfortunate results, but this sort of fracturing seems to plague any church regardless of its organization and standards.
Another good example is the Council of Constantinople of 879. Some Orthodox regard it as ecumenical, as in you must believe its proclamations if you are to be a good Orthodox. But most Orthodox don’t see it as such. And their disagreement isn’t based upon any rejection of its teachings, but probably just the fact that they don’t see it as essential to the faith or that perhaps it wasn’t widely attended (although it really was widely attended).
As for your comments about laymen, I disagree. I think theology shouldn’t be solely an academic pursuit. And laymen are just as much a part of the Body of Christ as their bishops are. This should not be interpreted of course of upsetting order. Bishops alone cast votes at councils, but if the congregations refuse it in mass, then there is probably a serious issue with what the bishops taught. This has been a rare historical occurrence though.
As far as far as the international character of ecumenical councils, my understanding is that Chalcedon was almost entirely Eastern. The Pope’s legates and two Africans came from the West, I believe. That was it for the West.
What about Constantinople 1? Were there any Western Bishops there?
Also,if Eucharistic ecclesiology is true, then why would the Council need to be international? Eucharistic ecclesiology–as I understand it–holds that each diocese is the fullness of the Church.
One Orthodox person told met that it doesn’t matter how small the Orthodox group is, as long as they are the ones who hold to the truth, and to what has always been believed.
Also, I’ve read that the Council of Sardica was called “the great Council” by St. Athanasius, who presided over it, so I wonder sometimes why that isn’t considered an Ecumencal Council.
A lot of local councils are held in high regard as teaching correct doctrine, but are not regarded as ecumenical due to their limited attendance. A good example of this is the Council of Frankfurt in 794, which condemned Adoptionism. Another example is the Second Council of Orange in 529.
As for your comments about Chalcedon, I think you can extend similar statements about all of the first seven ecumenical councils. This limited Western attendance wasn’t really regarded as an issue until the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. The Eastern bishops believed that the papacy sufficiently represented the West at the council. Well, it didn’t turn out that way because the Frankish Church rejected II Nicaea. They rejected it on the basis that they weren’t represented at the council and that it taught heresy. In fact, a lot of pockets of Western Europe continued to reject II Nicaea’s ecumenical status well into the Late Middle Ages.
Ultimately however, determining whether or not a council is or isn’t ecumenical based upon attendance is not easy either. Like I mentioned above, II Nicaea wasn’t accepted until centuries later in many parts of Europe. Likewise, many Eastern bishops, who believed Chalcedon taught correctly, at the same time didn’t regard it as ecumenical until the late 8th century. “Ecumenical” is mostly a term that is determined by the two factors I mentioned in my previous post, but even then it still remains a nebulous term. In short, there is a third factor, which is the following: the council must define doctrine so central to the faith that in order to be considered Orthodox, one must accept it.
As for Constantinople 1, I am not sure which one you are referring to. If you mean Constantinople in 869, then that also poses an interesting case. The Catholic Church accepts this as ecumenical, while the Orthodox Church does not. It was widely attended by all parties and patriarchs. So why do the Orthodox refuse to call it ecumenical? The council of 869 is much more polarized in the Orthodox world today, but back then, it was eventually superseded by Constantinople 879. Back then, the Eastern bishops felt that the punishment against Photius was either uncalled for or too harsh, so they revised the decision.
Constantinople 879 also poses an interesting case for why it isn’t regarded as ecumenical. It was just as well attended as 869. Even the pope signed off on it. But many Orthodox and all Catholics reject it as ecumenical. Most Orthodox reject it because they don’t feel it to be essential to the faith, although they might agree with its decisions. Catholics’ rejection of it is more of a historical accident more than anything. Francis Dvornik made a detailed study of its reception in the Latin West from the beginning and into the modern era (see his book The Photian Schism). More or less, it was just forgotten and then brought to everyone’s attention in the early modern period with a lot of polemical connotations that were never originally there. Dvornik argued, and I think he has a good point, that Catholics today should regard Constantinople 879 as ecumenical.
At the end of the day, a council doesn’t need to be international to teach correct doctrine in an Orthodox understanding, but having a international conference can really help to get everyone on the same page to say the least.
Is there an Orthodox consensus as to whether the bread and wine actually become the Body and Blood of Christ in the Catholic Church? I mean, do the Orthodox believe Catholics have a valid episcopate, priesthood, and Eucharist?
Orthodox reject that “heterodox” have valid sacraments or orders. Orthodox Church only recognizes historical apostolic succession of Rome. But these views a bit changed in few Greek Patriarchates because of ecumenism.
I poked around on the internet–including the Orthodox Church in America site–and it sounds like some of the Orthodox Churches–such as the Russian Orthodox and the Romanian Orthodox-- recognize the Catholic Sacraments.
It sounds to me like others, such as the Serbian Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox, and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, do not recognize the Catholic sacraments.