Saturday, June 4, 2016

Thoughts on the Upcoming "Orthodox Council"

I am a practicing Eastern Orthodox Christian. I attend the Divine Liturgy every Sunday at a parish under the direct jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow. 

I am frankly embarrassed by the six documents that the Orthodox Bishops are apparently about to ratify in the first "Council" in 1200 years.

Here is the official website that the Ecumenical Patriarch has promulgated for the "Council." It includes the draft versions of the six documents to be discussed and then ratified.

In comparison to the documents of Vatican II, these six documents come off as triumphalist and amount to an unnecessary reaffirmation of Orthodox Faith.

In other words, the Orthodox Church is not preparing to hold its own "Vatican II." The Orthodox Church is apparently preparing to hold its equivalent of the Council of Trent.

Let me close by citing just a few of the more sad points that my Church is apparently about to promulgate in Her claim to hold an Ecumenical Council.

1) The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church

The Roman Catholic Church at Vatican II had a document, Lumen Gentium, which was about to state that the Roman Catholic Church is (est) the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. But, in recognition that there were Churches like the Orthodox Church, wherein the full sacramental life exists, they amended the document to state that the Church "subsists" (subsistit) in the Catholic Church. (Lumen Gentium 8)

In arrogance, my Orthodox Church is apparently about to state exactly what the Catholic Church, in humility, chose not to state. And, unlike Vatican II, which explicitly discussed the Orthodox Church, the document on relations with other Churches no where mentions the profound similarity in doctrine and practice she shares with the Catholic Church.

As the documents currently stand, the Orthodox Church will ratify the following statement:

"The Orthodox Church, as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, in her profound ecclesiastical conscience, firmly believes that she maintains a central place in matters pertaining to the promotion of unity among Christians in the contemporary world."

As a result of this statement, Christian unity will apparently only be realized by surrender to the nationalistic bodies that Orthodoxy represents. Orthodoxy should be ashamed of how tied it is to ethnicity. The "Council" doesn't even think this is a problem, and so it is not being addressed.

2) Those Who Do Not Fast Are Damned to Hell?

This is the saddest point of all. There have never been official rules regarding fasting. And yet, ridiculous ideas evolved within the Orthodox World about what fasting should look like. The "Council" had the chance to actually *do* something and promulgate official rules for the faithful.

They state that the traditional rules remain in effect, but people should excuse themselves appropriately. 

In other words, they have stated nothing new. 

But they, sadly, do say one thing about fasting that leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

The Council will apparently ratify the following statement regarding those who do not carry out the fasts. It asserts that the Church should urge them to follow the fasts because:

"God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live (Ezek 33:11)"

Really? In other words, those of us those who don't observe the fasts are "wicked"? Those of us who don't observe the fasts are not saved?

I have read the "Council" documents carefully. I see nothing meaningful and significant to be ratified. I see things, as I have described above, that are troublesome.

I am saddened that my Church is about to hold a historic Council and yet seems to be about to accomplish nothing. I pray I will yet be wrong.