Posted in Ecumenism, Soteriology on November 15, 2007|
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The life of the Church reproduces on a large scale the life of the individual soul. The Christian Church in its two thousand years of existence has gone through the same religious experience as the Christian, the same crises and the same conflict.
I want to touch upon one aspect of this interior and intimate conflict within the Church in dealing with Christian unity.
God, himself perfectly one in the Trinity, in creating a world with elements so varied and often so opposed, intended to manifest his glory and show forth his power by placing and maintaining unity in his world. Having made heaven and earth, the vegetable and animal kingdoms, the day star and the stars of night, he brought them together in harmony and order. This unity, realized according to God’s eternal designs, is the foundation of all that is good and beautiful.
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Hieromonk Maximos, at the Anastasis Dialogue, takes issue with some comments by Father Thomas Hopko on the issue of the Latin Catholic understanding of Purgatory.
There are, in my opinion, some pretty crazy “pious” speculations on the afterlife on both sides of the isle. And it’s crucial to isolate the actual official teachings of the Roman Church on the subject from both the “pious” elaborations (which can be tolerated to an extent) and the misconceptions/polemical distortions of outsiders (which, with a little charity and humility on both sides, can be easily set aside).
The Roman Church only affirms two things about Purgatory: (1) That it exists (that is, a state or process of purification for the faithful departed on their way to eternal bliss); and (2) that we ought to offer our prayers for them here on earth.
As far as I know, the Orthodox beef with Purgatory at the Council of Florence was with an overly literalistic description of the “fires” of Purgatory (again, such things fall outside of the category of official dogma in the Roman Church). There was no dispute over the existence of a kind of purification after death, nor with the idea that our prayers can assist the faithful departed in their preparation to meet the Lord in eternity.
As an Orthodox Christian, I can’t see anything church-dividing here. There are a lot things about the way that Roman Catholics sometimes talk about Purgatory that will be provocative and offensive to Eastern ears; but, again, this should be distinguished from serious dogmatic disagreement.
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Father Kimel of Pontifications has alerted me to the following blog articles which provide a rather different Orthodox perspective on the alleged chasm between Greek and Latin understandings of sin and salvation. I doubt that the author, Ephrem Bensusan, a conservative Eastern Orthodox, can be accused of being a “latinophile” or “crypto-Catholic”, although apparently he does not think that Orthodox can so easily dismiss or disqualify theologians or theological statements (especially conciliar ones) on the basis that they are from the “Western captivity” of Orthodox theology in the modern period. I’m sure that there is a real basis to the “pseudomorphosis” argument as proposed by Florovsky; however, in popular (mostly American convert) Eastern Orthodox discourse (e.g. the “Frederica” school of American Orthodoxy), this narrative has become horribly overblown.
Anyhow, without any further ado, here are the articles from Ephrem Bensusan’s Razilazenje:
And on the related topic of the contemporary Orthodox dismissal of the seventeenth century Orthodox confessional statements under the suspicion of “Western captivity”, here’s Bensusan’s take.
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