January 20, 2004

ERP KiM Newsletter Special Edition

Special Edition

View of the Orthodox Church on the "Great Schism" of 1054

Manifestation of fundamental differences

The "Great Schism" according to Orthodox tradition, is not just an unfortunate convergence of historical events, cultural estrangement of the Germanized West from the Orthodox East or a rhetorical disagreement based on linguistic misunderstandings, but a visible manifestation of numerous fundamental theological differences between the teachings of the Orthodox Church and papism, which carried out a radical revision of the authentic Christian faith and transformed Christianity into a humanistic religion, turning the Church, which is Body of Christ, into a religious organization.

Hagia Sophia Church, Constantinople

St. Peter's Church, Vatican

Two ancient centers of Christendom - Constantinople and Rome
once so close, but still so far apart


by hieromonk Sava Janjic
Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren
(the text was published in the Christmas issue of the "Danas" Belgrade daily with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren, Kosovo and Metohija)

 

(photo: an Orthodox fresco showing the First ecumenical council in Niecea 318)

The so-called Great Schism between the Christian East and West, whose beginning was formally marked by the mutual excommunication of the Roman Cardinal Humbert and Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Kerullarios, was a centuries-long process of gradual apostasy by the Western, Roman Church from the Orthodox Church and the fullness of her apostolic and catholic (universal) tradition.

Although the genesis of the schism was favored by tempestuous historic circumstances and increasingly greater differences in language and culture, especially after the Germanic invasions in the West in the fifth century and Muslim expansion in the East from the seventh century onward, in the Orthodox theological and liturgical consciousness the former Orthodox Roman Church had succumbed to heresy.

Since the time of Justinian in the sixth century, the Roman Empire based in Constantinople had less and less strength to preserve the temporarily reestablished orbis romanus. In the Western provinces of the empire, which had been flooded by hordes of Germanic barbarians, the only torchlight remained the Roman Church, which was also the only link between Western Romans and their Eastern brothers, and the Roman cultural heritage of the Hellenic East.

Gradual alienation of two parts of the Christendom

However, by the end of the eighth to the beginning of the eleventh centuries, the Germanic influence in the Roman Church had already gradually pushed out the Roman (i. e., Byzantine)[1]. With the support of the Carolingian dynasty, the popes won not only spiritual power over the once influential Western churches but also the properties that became the basis of future papal state power. The spirit of Frankish feudalism was also increasingly reflected in the organization of the Roman church, in which the pope played the role of the monarch and the bishops that of feudal nobles subjugated to him. The secularization of the Roman church culminated especially during the period between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, at the time of the dissipated popes of the Renaissance, which led to the Reformation and new schisms which continue to this day in the form of numerous sects and atheist ideologies.

On the other hand, the Church in the East was more oriented toward the rich Hellenic theological and cultural legacy, which crystallized even more in the period of the seven Ecumenical Synods held from the fourth to the eighth centuries through the works of the Holy Fathers. As the church of the imperial city, the Patriarchate of New Rome was completely understandably elevated to a level of honor equal to that of the church of the old imperial capital, which provoked further suspicions. With the fall of the Eastern provinces under Muslim rule in the seventh century, Constantinople finally became the most influential spiritual center of the Eastern Christian world and actively dedicated itself to the Christianization of the Slavs. The Western and Eastern Romans found it increasingly difficult to understand each other for two completely different church and cultural mentalities had already been formed.

Filioque as a stumbling block

Especially deep discord between the churches was created by the unilateral addition of the Filioque clause to the traditional Symbol of Faith at the Council of Toledo in 589. The main champions of filioquism were Frankish theologians who introduced their teachings to the palace of the Carolingians, where it was accepted as an official teaching of the church. The crowning of Charlemagne as "Roman imperator" in the year 800 in Rome was not only a direct provocation to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) understanding of the unity of the Christian world headed by the emperor (basileus) of New Rome but also opened the door to the triumph of filioquism despite the opposition of some Italian popes.

From the second half of the ninth century, relations between the Old and the New Rome entered a phase of dramatic confrontation. The Patriarch of New Rome St. Photius (820-886) was the first Orthodox theologian to clearly explain the false teachings of the Frankish theologians and warn the Roman Church of the dangers resulting from their innovations. During the time of Photius, the Fourth Council of Constantinople (870/880) was held as the last joint (Eighth) Ecumenical Synod of Eastern and Western fathers who confirmed the unity of the Orthodox faith and condemned the revision of the Symbol of Faith, and hence the teaching on Filioque.

In the year 1009, Pope John XVIII (the last Orthodox pope to be officially recognized by all Eastern patriarchs and mentioned in the diptychs) was deposed. A string of Frankish popes ascended the Roman cathedra and by 1014 Pope Benedict VIII, under pressure from Emperor Henrik II, introduced Filioque into Roman liturgy.

Anathemas of 1054

Conflicts between Rome and Constantinople at the end of the ninth and beginning of the tenth centuries regarding jurisdiction in the south of Italy, disagreements regarding the mission among the Slavs, particularly the Bulgarians, and other differences of opinion further deepened the chasm between the two sister churches. With the intent of resolving all disputes by fiat, Pope Leo IX sent Cardinal Humbert to Constantinople for negotiations with the Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Kerullarios. The negotiations were not only unfruitful but they also brought to light many old disputes regarding the Filioque heresy, papal primacy and other issues regarding differences in liturgical tradition, many of which had been tacitly tolerated in previous centuries.

The conflict between the arrogant cardinal and the unyielding patriarch ended in mutual excommunication. Although no great dramatic significance was attached to this event at that time, historians would later designate it as the beginning of the so-called Great Schism which, as we can see, had begun to develop much earlier. Although in 1965 the Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras I and Pope Paul VI lifted the respective anathemas of 1054, this symbolic act, as well as the contemporary diplomacy of Constantinople, have not made any dramatic change in the relationship between Orthodoxy and Rome, nor to this day has the attitude of the Church toward the Latin false teachings essentially changed, regardless of the ecumenistic policies of individual bishops and theologians.

Sack of Constantinople by Crusades - the final breach

(photo: Chalice adorned with pearls, precious stones and medallions with busts of hierarchs. The inscription in Greek of  "Drink ye all of it" suggests that it was used for the Holy Eucharist in one of the churches of Constantinople or possibly in  the Palace, since it is known as the Chalice of Emperor Romanus II (959-963). (Venice, Treasure of S. Marco)


Despite the existence until the thirteenth century of periodic cases of partially reestablished intercommunion and the conviction that theological differences were not insurmountable, the final seal on Western apostasy from the Orthodox Church came with the Crusades, which would frequently turn into looting expeditions by Frankish hordes, and bloody massacres. The Crusades also worsened the position of Eastern Christians under Muslim rule and indirectly resulted in growing hatred of Muslim population towards Christianity in general.
In April of 1204 the Crusaders, together with Frankish bishops and abbots wearing battle armor, ravaged Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire, in barbarian fashion and soon thereafter imposed a parallel Latin hierarchy with an illegal Latin patriarch on the subjugated Orthodox population of one part of the Empire. While the Patriarch and the Emperor of New Rome found refuge in Nicea, the popes heartily supported the Latin patriarchate and Frankish dominions on the Byzantine soil, just as they later supported Uniate policy in Eastern Europe and the Near East. The forcible Uniate conversion of the Orthodox and proselytism remain to this day the chief tools of the Vatican in traditionally Orthodox territories which Rome considers as legitimate "terra missionis". Despite unsuccessful attempts to reestablish church unity according to Roman dictate and political pressures in Lyon (1274) and Ferrara-Florence (1431-1445), papism already was and remains a heresy for the Orthodox Christians.

Although there have been more or fewer compromise positions in different periods depending on political circumstances, the Orthodox Church does not allow Roman Catholic communion to its believers to this day, not even in the moment of death. This generally accepted liturgical tradition best demonstrates the traditional Orthodox view of the validity of other Roman Catholic "sacraments".

Serious doctrinal differences:

The "Great Schism", therefore, according to Orthodox tradition, is not just an unfortunate convergence of historical events, cultural estrangement of the Germanized West from the Orthodox East or a rhetorical disagreement based on linguistic misunderstandings, but a visible manifestation of numerous fundamental theological differences between the teachings of the Orthodox Church and papism, which carried out a radical revision of the authentic Christian faith and transformed Christianity into a humanistic religion, turning the Church, which is Body of Christ, into a religious organization.

Papal primate - divine or historical institution

In the West the pope who was the Bishop of Rome and the first in honor among the other patriarchs (primus inter pares) was proclaimed to be Christ's vicar on earth and "the head of the whole universe" (caput totius orbis) . According to the First Vatican Council (1870), the pope is also ex cathedra (as universal teacher and pastor) infallible (irreformable) "of himself (by reason of his office), and not from the consensus of the Church" (ex sese, non autem ex consensu Ecclesiae). Papal primacy, which is a historical institution, since Rome was the imperial capital, in the West is interpreted exclusively as a divine institution. It rests on the arbitrary teaching that the popes are the unique heirs of Peter, as if the Lord (according to the majority of Holy Fathers) had not promised that he would build a Church on the rock (Gr. petra) of Peter's faith, i.e., faith in Christ as the Son of God (Matt. 16:18). Today, Roman Catholic theologians are masking these absurd and pretentious teachings with the rather abstract idea of the papal "presiding in love", which is only a smoke screen for the rigid papal ecclesiology behind it.
[2]

The Orthodox Church has preserved authentic conciliarity (sabornost) among bishops with local churches headed by archbishops who excel only in honor from the rest of their brothers. So-called collegiality in the West remains only a fig leaf of the papal ssovereign power that has culminated in our time in the personality cult of Pope John Paul II. Traditional masses have been turned into open-air spectacles with choreography focused on the person of the pope while his bishops act more as his acolytes. The East has preserved Christ as the head of the Church, while in the West the pope de facto became the head, as the main cohesive element of the unity of the Church. Without papal supreme authority, Roman Catholicism would split into hundreds of sects and that is exactly why papism remains the cornerstone of Roman ecclesiology and the main stumbling block to its return to its venerable Orthodox roots.

Filioque controversy - matter of semantics or different triadology

The Filioque heresy in essence originates from the failure to differentiate among relations between the three Divine Persons in eternity and in the economy of salvation. Its crucial practical consequence is the lack of true understanding of "personality" in both divine and human aspects, which is particularly reflected in deviant papal ecclesiology. The Orthodox East sees triadic unity primarily in the person of God the Father, from whom the Son, who is consubstantial  (Gr. homousion) to the Father, is being eternally born; and from whom the Spirit eternally proceeds (Gr. ekporeuetai). Although the Spirit shares the same essence as the Son and is sent by the Son into the world in the economy of salvation, eternally the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father, as the sole source and cause (Gr. aitia) of the divine essence. On the other hand, the medieval West saw the unity of the divine persons more in the form of a metaphysical divine essence. In order to confirm the unity of essence of the Father and the Son (the main challenge of Arianism), it proclaimed that the Holy Spirit "eternally proceeds from both the Father and the Son as from one principle and by one single spiration" (ex Utroque aeternaliter tamquam ab uno principio et unica spiratione procedit, Lyon 1274) [3].

Filioque, therefore, is not only an uncanonical addendum to the Orthodox Symbol of Faith but also creates confusion in the hypostatic difference between the Father and the Son, and denigrates the Person of the Holy Spirit, reducing It to a mere link of their mutual love.

Teaching on justification versus traditional Orthodox soteriology

Serious differences also exist in the understanding of man's redemption from sin and death, especially since the time of Anselm of Canterbury (in the eleventh century), who practically reduced soteriology from the ontological level to the level of psychological moralism. Anselm interpreted sin as "an insult to God's majesty", which is atoned for through appropriate "satisfaction", while salvation from existential death is reduced to the moralist teaching of justification by moral merits. These and similar liturgical deviations opened the door wide to other innovations: the teaching about purgatory and monetary "indulgences". The popes not only proclaimed these teachings and practices as official church doctrine, but in the thirteenth century also introduced the infamous Inquisition, which brutally tortured and burned thousands of people "to the greater glory of God" (ad majorem gloriam Dei), and which to this day has not been officially abolished and condemned but only renamed into the Sanctum Officium in 1906.

Conversely, for Orthodoxy the sin (Gr. hamartia) literary means "missing a target", a failure to use God-given energies for their proper purpose (skopos). Through sin, a man bases his existence on created nature and his selfish ego and becomes alienated from God through his free will, losing personal communion with God and dying spiritually. That is why the sin should be healed and not punished. The Orthodox pray for the deceased, but not to rescue them from the cleansing fire of purgatory. Hell is not a place where God punishes the man who insulted his majesty but a place of selfish darkness and absence of genuine love toward God. Roman Catholicism moves between extremes. Instead of medieval obsession with infernal fire and the "just" wrath of God, it is now overwhelmed by the spirit of pietism and a "sweet Jesus" ready to forgive all the petty vices of the contemporary man. [4]

Scholasticism versus hesychasm

(photo: workshops of Orthodox theology - a solitary hermitage on Mount Athos)

The ascetic and theological tradition of the Orthodox Church, based on the apophatic method and an active life in prayer and holy sacraments, in the West is reduced to the narrow rationalist confines of scholasticism and canonic law. As the West increasingly rushed into the embrace of rationalism, secular universities, legal regulations and natural sciences, the Orthodox East by the fourteenth century had carried out a creative synthesis of theological tradition (the Palamite synods), which to the present day has been dynamically developed in the liturgical and theological-ascetic life of the Church (tradition of hesychasm). The spirit of Western theological and church reforms, "aggiornamento" and the so-called dogmatic evolution have been and remain foreign to Orthodoxy, which is both contemporary and traditional, but never conservative and petrified.

The West is painstakingly struggling with how to interpret God's creation and analytically define social relations and phenomena by placing them into appropriate categories. The Orthodox East is more concerned with knowing and seeing (Gr. eidenai) God as He is, i. e., achieving immediate spiritual knowledge (experience) of the Creator, establishing an ontological personal relationship with Him (deification – Gr. theosis). This is not achieved individually, by different techniques and meditation methods, but within the Church – the only workshop of salvation. This is why Orthodox Christian theology is not a philosophical science of syllogisms but a living experience not always necessarily always expressed in written form or through dogmatic definitions and canonical rules. The dogmatic definitions formulated in defense of Orthodoxy from heresies are still only the signs that show direction and limits, but never completely exhaust the fullness of God's mystery. In short, while Orthodox Church is trying to raise humanity to the eternal values of Christ, the heterodox West is busy how to adapt the Christ's teaching to the contemporary time.

Not only a schism but an overall apostasy

Keeping in mind the entire course of aforementioned and other serious theological differences that manifested themselves from the end of the first millennium to today, the so-called Great Schism of 1054 is just one of the developments that symbolically mark a centuries-long process of gradual apostasy of the Roman Catholic West from Orthodoxy. The Orthodox churches do not seek domination over the West, as Roman Catholicism sought and in places still seeks over them, but only expect Western Christians to return to the Orthodox community of churches through a restoration of their own ancient tradition, that of the Orthodox Roman Church, rejecting papism and other heresies which more or less originated from it.

This process requires them to humbly delve into their own Orthodox tradition deeply buried under the layers of centuries. However, this cannot be accomplished through liturgical archeology, rationalistic reform or by decree but only by overall repentance (Gr. metanoia - changing of the mind) of every individual. Attempts to overcome fundamental differences through political ecumenism, pietism or simply by oblivion will never lead to true reunification of Western Christians with the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church.[5]

 


Footnotes:


[1] The Eastern Roman Empire was never called by its own people and officials "Byzantine Empire" or "Byzantium". In fact, the Empire was considered as a political continuation of the ancient Imperium Romanum and was called Basileia ton Romaion (Empire of the Romans) or simply Romania till its very end in 1453. The people of the Empire called themselves Romaioi which is a Hellenic equivalent of the corresponding Latin term. The term "Hellenes" designated more ancient adherents of the Hellenic pre-Christian culture and religion and not a nation in the modern sense of the word. The capital of the Empire, Constantinople, was very often referred as New Rome (Nea Rome) which sounded perfectly normal to the people of that time like New York sounds today. The term "Byzantine Empire" was introduced by the Frankish West in order to show that it was the Empire of the Franks that was a legal successor of the Christianized Roman Empire and not what they derogatively called "Greek Empire" in the East. More on: http://www.romanity.org/

[2] The popular papolatry went that far that the following statement was published in the Catholic National: "The Pope is not only the representative of Jesus Christ, he is Jesus Christ himself, hidden under the veil of flesh." Catholic National, July, 1895. Orthodox Church never denied that the Bishop of Rome presided in love and honor among all other bishops. However, it is totally unacceptable for the Orthodox that the Bishop of Rome has any special attributes of divine origin which make him higher in sacerdotal or jurisdictional powers than other bishops. Infallibility of the Church does not rest in "irreformability" of the Bishop of Rome but in the fact that it is the very body of Christ who is the only rock and the head of the Church "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mt. 16, 18). The infallibility of the Church is manifested primarily through synods of Bishops and the consensus of the entire Church, and cannot be an exclusive prerogative of either one or more bishops. The formula "ex sese, non autem ex consensu Ecclesiae" is therefore directly opposite to the centuries old practice and belief of the Christian Church. Ref: The Rock of Apostle Peter by Panagiotis Boumis, Myriobiblos Library, http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/boumis_peter.html

[3] [Denzinger, "Enchiridion" (1908), n. 460]: "We confess that the Holy Ghost proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, not as from two principles, but as from one principle, not by two spirations, but by one single spiration." The teaching was again laid down by the Council of Florence (ibid., n. 691), and by Eugene IV in his Bull "Cantate Domino" (ibid., n. 703 sq.). The recent attempts of Roman Catholic theologians to explain that the verb procedere has wider meaning and does not necessarily mean the same as the Greek ekporeuesthai are directly challenged by this unfortunate formula by which the Filioque teaching was officially accepted as compulsory belief of the Roman Church. The Orthodox Church has never denied that the Son and the Spirit share the same, constubstantial divinity but strongly denies that Father and Son act as single principle (cause, Gr. aitia) of eternal procession of the Holy Spirit. More about Orthodox view on Filioque at: http://www.geocities.com/trvalentine/orthodox/filioquemain.html

[4] Theology of the Holy fathers from the earliest times until our own days has been primarily based on how to overcome the sin and death achieving a personal union with God through spiritual cleansing of the heart and the mind (nous). It has never lost its therapeutic, practical character and become a philosophic discipline like in the medieval West. Holy Seven Ecumenical Synods, which firmly stand on the apostolic tradition, are seven pillars on which the entire Orthodox lex credendi and lex orandi are based. However, dynamism of the Orthodox theology is contained in its living spiritual experience, while in the West it is primarily manifested in succession of different theological systems, which are usually based on the prevailing philosophic or social theories of the time. More about Orthodox spirituality can be read in books of Met. Ierotheos Vlachos: http://www.pelagia.org/htm/b15.en.orthodox_spirituality.00.htm

[5] Catholic (Gr. Katholikos) means universal (containing all). This name has always remained the official name of the Church which is more often called Orthodox to make difference to other heterodox Christian communities. On every Holy Liturgy Orthodox Christians recite the Creed and say that they believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Consequently, the traditional Orthodox understanding is that One Holy and Catholic Church cannot be divided, which is contradiction in adjecto. There can only be an apostasy from the Church. For the Orthodox the Church is not only the visible organization with its hierarchy (in this time and space) but primarily the eternal Body of Christ comprising all saints, angels, living and deceased faithful who remain in personal unity of love with the head of the Church - The Christ.

Remark: This article and the footnotes are written on the basis of the spiritual legacy of traditional Orthodox theologians and may not be necessarily in concordance with some more liberal or ecumenical views, which nevertheless exist within contemporary Orthodox Church.


Selected links related to the topic:

Papism as the oldest Protestantism, by Blessed Fr. Justin Popovic (Spiritual father of Bishop Artemije) http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/papism.htm

The Difference between Orthodox spirituality and other traditions, by Met. Ierotheos Vlachos http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/hierotheos_difference.htm

Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy, (Collection of texts regarding differences between Orthodox doctrine and heterodox teachings), The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Washington, D.C.
http://www.stjohndc.org/heterodoxy/heterodoxy.htm

Jοhn Ν. Karmiris, Professor in the University of Athens, The Schism of the Roman Church Translated by Z. Xintaras (From “Theologia” review, Athens 1950, 400-587 pp)
http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/roman_church.htm

Philip Sherrard, From Theology to Philosophy in the Latin West (From: The Greek East and the Latin West - A Study in the Christian Tradition, Oxford Univ. Press 1959, Denise Harvey 1992.) http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/sherrard_philosophy.html

Milton V. Anastos, Constantinople and Rome - A Survey of the Relations between the Byzantine and the Roman Churches, Published by Ashgate Publications, Variorum Collected Studies Series http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/milton1_index.html

The Great Schism, by Met. Callistos (Timothy) Ware, /schism.html

Orthodox Church and Ecumenism (a great variety of critical texts)
http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/index.html 

Ecumenism and the Ecclesiology of Saint Cyprian of Carthage, Fr. Daniel Dugansky, An excerpt from Orthodox Christianity and the Spirit of Contemporary Ecumenism, by Fr. Daniel Degyansky. (Etna: CA, The Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1997 [1992]), pp. 76-83. Fr. Daniel is a Priest in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).
http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/stcyprian_eccles.htm

Emmanuel Clapsis, The Boundaries of the Church - An Orthodox Debate  (First published in the Greek Orthodox Theological Review, vol. 35, no. 2, 1990, pp. 113‑27)
http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8541.asp  See also: Papal Primacy, by the same author: http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8523.asp


Pope John Paul II on one of his "apostolic" visits. Contemporary papacy has evolved
into an elaborate personality cult which demonstrates devastating effects of
secularization in the Roman Catholic world


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