Orthodox Ecclesiology . . . Today

Summary

“Much as Orthodox theology is understood as the mystical encounter with the incarnate Christ, Son of the eternal Father, through the Spirit of Truth, so Orthodox ecclesiology is understood in incarnational and trinitarian terms. The Church is the body of Christ, offered ‘for the life of the world’, in which the world finds life through communion with its incarnate Lord. It is first and foremost in the meeting of divine and human, of uncreated and created, in the Incarnation of the Son that the Church finds its own reality. It is in and as the living body of the ‘one person in two natures’ (to employ the language of the Chalcedonian definition) that it brings to fruition, through the Spirit, the saving will of the Father: that his Son become man, so that man might be united to him as God.”

“The Church is seen primarily as a place of encounter, where God is not so much learned about as met, and where human lives are brought into an ecclesia, a community, of relation to this encountered God. At the beginning of its main service, the Divine Liturgy, the deacon proclaims to the celebrant bishop the intention of the Church’s work: ‘Master, it is time for the Lord to act’ (cf. Ps 118 [119]:126) – announcing an act that culminates in the eucharistic encounter of the communicant faithful with the body and blood of Christ.”

“This focus on encounter establishes the nature of the Church as intrinsically sacramental. The sacraments stand at the centre of the Church’s life and mission, not because of a symbolic significance or merit of ritual, but because in each sacrament the person is drawn farther into the encounter with God which transforms and transfigures.”

Comment.

Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko said . . . in a recent interview with BBC Ukraine, he rejected the possibility of its clergy being re-ordained, despite the fact that several Local Churches have expressed either the outright rejection of their clergy or serious reservations about serving with clergy who were ordained while in schism.

Question Begged.

IF Orthodox ecclesiology is: “The Church is seen primarily as a place of encounter, where God is not so much learned about as met, and where human lives are brought into an ecclesia, a community, of relation to this encountered God. At the beginning of its main service, the Divine Liturgy, the deacon proclaims to the celebrant bishop the intention of the Church’s work: ‘Master, it is time for the Lord to act’ (cf. Ps 118 [119]:126) – announcing an act that culminates in the eucharistic encounter of the communicant faithful with the body and blood of Christ.”

THEN the celebrant bishop [or priest] must be apostolically ordained.

THEREFORE the acceptance of non-apostolically ordained “bishops” or “priests” results in a change in Orthodox ecclesiology and violates the encounter between God and man.

Additional Commentary.

Part 3: A Look At Russia’s Reasons for Breaking Communion –Anna Stickles

“In my two prior posts, I illustrated how Constantinople acted without love or discernment in Ukraine, and then looked at the need to clarify how ecclesial decrees are understood. . .

“While canons do not allow for breaking communion over moral issues, they do allow for breaking communion over issues of a distortion of the faith, and the Holy Synod of the Russian church when it broke communion with Constantinople made specific claims that Constantinople is involved in false teaching and a problematic ecclesiology. It’s action of breaking communion was commensurate with its declarations . . .

“When sin starts to become law in the Church, then Christ and the Holy Spirit will stir up resistance in the conscience of the Church. This is what we see happening now . . . In the overall scheme of church conflict this by far is a less harmful issue than Constantinople’s attempt to kidnap the canons and institutionalize a use of them that is self-serving rather than a genuine pastoral tool for the good order of the Church.”

From the Holy Synod in Albania

“The very same distress and anguish for safeguarding the unity of the Orthodox Church obliges us to formulate a fundamental doubt about the retroactive validity of ordinations performed by a deposed, excommunicated and anathematized person. The career of the one who committed the actions in question, Mr Filaret Denysenko (the protagonist of the ecclesiastical crisis in Ukraine) is revealing. Consecrated as a bishop of the Patriarchate of Moscow in 1962, he acted, among other functions, as president of its Department of External Affairs and Metropolitan of Kiev. In 1991, he sought autocephaly, not from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but from according to him the “Mother Church”, the Patriarchate of Moscow. In 1992 he was deposed, while in 1997 he was excommunicated and anathematized by the Church of Russia, an organic part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, actions that were recognized by all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

“While Filaret was deposed and excommunicated, he performed uncanonical liturgical actions, which do not constitute valid mysteries. Therefore the ordinations performed by him are non-existent, void, deprived of the divine grace of the Holy Spirit. Among them are the ordinations to deacon, priest and finally bishop of his pupil Sergei Dumenko, now Metropolitan Epiphany. In your letter from December 24, 2018, it states “… have returned them to the hierarchical and priestly ranks…” We question, nevertheless, whether the ordinations performed by Filaret, while he was excommunicated and anathematized, acquired thereafter, without canonical ordination, validity from the Holy Spirit and a genuine seal of apostolic succession.

“It is recognized by all of Orthodoxy as a fundamental ecclesiological principle that the ordinations of schismatics and heretics, as “mysteries” performed outside of the Church, are invalid, so all the more so ordinations by someone who is deposed and excommunicated. We believe that this basic principle, which is inextricably tied to Orthodox teaching about the Holy Spirit, constituting an unshakeable foundation for the apostolic succession of Orthodox bishops, cannot be neglected.

“It is difficult for us to understand that invalid and non-existent things are being made Spirit-bearing “by economy” and that actions constituting repeated blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (such as the invocation by the then-excommunicated Filaret, “Divine Grace… is placed into the hands… let us pray for him upon whom the grace of the Holy Spirit comes…”) are being recognized retroactively “by economy”. It is, finally, well-known that according to the recent Unifying Council, the selection and election of the new Primate of the Church of Ukraine was the result of the insistence of Filaret, who moreover today is officially called in Ukraine “His Holiness the honorary Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus-Ukraine.” After all the above, we question adding the name of Metropolitan Epiphany to the diptychs.”