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BEM and Orthodox Spirituality

Bishop [now Archbishop] Chrysostomos of Oreoi [now of Etna]

The Plenary Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Lima, Peru in January of 1982, adopted a significant interfaith paper on Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry (the so-called "Lima Document" or "BEM"). At the recommendation of the WCC at its Vancouver assembly in 1983, the Orthodox Task Force of the WCC and the Faith and Order Commission arranged a meeting of various Orthodox and Oriental church leaders to discuss the Orthodox reception of the BEM document. This meeting was held in June 1985 at Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. The papers and discussions resulting from this meeting appeared in The Greek Orthodox Theological Review (Vol. 30, no. 2, 1985) and constitute the most extensive collection of reactions by the Eastern Christian community to the Lima Document. It is to this body of material that I would like to address a few remarks about baptism, the eucharist, and the Church's ministry or priesthood. I hope that my remarks, offered from a somewhat conservative viewpoint—one not always fairly presented or adequately represented in ecumenical dialogues these days—will offer at least an opportunity for new thoughts or different insights.

As a traditionalist Orthodox believer, it often strikes me that we Orthodox enter ecumenical dialogue with a rather jaundiced view of our positions. Some years ago Christos Yannaras, [1] in an article which did little to gain him warm friends among his contemporary colleagues in Greek Orthodox theological circles, pointed out that Orthodox too often react to Western theological systematics with a sense of inferiority about the Eastern Christian theological scheme, leading to selfdenigration and an almost obsequious attention to sometimes unwarranted Western criticism of Orthodox theological traditions. The end result of this is that our theologians at times end up not "positiontaking" but "positiondefending." The consequent loss to the Orthodox witness is one of precision and of a careful exposition of the unique Orthodox view. Simultaneously, there is created an atmosphere of vulnerability among Orthodox thinkers that would lead even the most benign observer to wonder just what the late Father Georges Florovsky meant when he envisioned the role of the Orthodox Church in the ecumenical movement as that of the standard of Christianity reaching out beyond its own perimeters to touch the heterodox religious world. Such a vision is greatly compromised by selfcriticism that borders on selfabnegation. Not a little of this can be seen in certain of the Brookline documents and the Eastern Christian response to BEM.

As a corollary to Yannaras' nowdated, though still partly applicable, observation about Orthodox theologians, I would also note that many Orthodox theologians have failed to heed the words of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, addressed to an overlyscholastic age of Russian theologians who not only quivered before the West, but often embraced it in an attempt to restore stability to a trembling sense of theological derangement that beset eighteenthcentury and early nineteenthcentury Russian Orthodoxy:

Not a great deal can one expect from reliance on his personal philosophical reasoning for subjects not found in mundane life. It is more proper to follow divine revelation and the explications for such given by people who have prayed, labored, and purified their inner and outer lives more than we. In those whose souls are closer to heaven than our own, the image of God is more obvious and their insight clearer.

In short, the "Western captivity" still exists, however uncomfortable we may be with such an admission. As did Aischylos, we must see that our learning will come with the suffering afforded by humble recognition of our limitations, that " ... wisdom will come to us by the awesome grace of God." We must see that our theology still falls short of that blending of personal spirituality and intellectual exposition which marks the great apologists and confessors of the Orthodox faith. In much of the material outlining the Orthodox response to BEM, this shortcoming is overwhelmingly obvious. Reacting to Western systematic notions, many of the Orthodox responses retreat into a profound negativity about the Orthodox witness, fail to justify much of the Orthodox lex orandi in Western categories (since this cannot, in fact, be done), and almost wholly ignore the spiritual traditions which underlie the apparent informality and nonsystematic nature of the Orthodox theological witness.

The great challenge of BEM and the ecumenical movement in general, with regard to the Orthodox Church and Eastern Christians, is that of regaining adequate selfknowledge. A popular ditty tells us:

We that acquaint ourselves with every zone
And pass both tropics and behold the poles,
When we come home are to ourselves unknown,
And unacquainted still with our own souls. [2]

We Orthodox have not returned to the patristic soul of our Church, despite several decades of patristic revivalism and much talk about spirituality. Just recently, I was asked to comment on an area of dogmatic theology, with the specific task of separating teachings in the standard dogmatic texts from various "theologoumena," or privately-held, though possibly accurate, views held by some Fathers. In the course of offering my comments, it occurred to me that we Orthodox all too frequently reify the various scholarly devices that help us to sort out patristic thought on some subject of theological concern. There really are no such things as "standard dogmatics texts"; nor, indeed do theologoumena exist as such. Within the discipline of comparative patristics, which demands wide and exhaustive reading, we can posit that some ideas are "low in literature," as social scientific jargon would have it, but we can never flatly state that they are outside the realm of revealed dogma. Nor, indeed, are the dogmata themselves revealed in composite texts. They emerge, rather, from a kind of "patristic consensus," as Father Florovsky calls it, with regard to certain issues. There is no "Baltimore Catechism" of Orthodox dogmas. Confessional statements designed to provide Orthodox answers to problematic areas in Western theology (such as those written during the Protestant Reformation) notwithstanding, the Orthodox Church really does not approach even the sacramental life in what the West would call a "dogmatic" fashion. Were this not the case, in fact, some "philosopher of theology" would find in our arbitrary distinction between dogmas and theologoumena that bothersome homunculus of the scientific world, this time carefully sorting out the supposed chaff and dross of the Orthodox faith from the seed of truth. Actually, all Orthodox studies call us to a thorough, careful search of the Fathers and to an existential immersion into their spirits—to something that ultimately rises above the useful tools of research that we have borrowed largely from Western theological schemata. Indeed, some of the Orthodox responses to the Lima Document show a clear misunderstanding of the spiritual traditions which must underlie any discussion of the Orthodox ministry and life in the mysteries. There is still too little reading in the Fathers and too little patristic elucidation. We must constantly and humbly admit such inadequacies and turn to the Fathers, to those souls that "are closer to heaven than our own," to form a patristic synthesis that truly expresses the Orthodox spirit and ethos and that reveals accurate knowledge of what we are.

In my few comments below, by no means do I wish to present a patristic response to every issue that the Orthodox responses to BEM entail. I simply wish to offer a few insights gleaned from my own readings from the Fathers in the broad areas of baptism, the eucharist, and the ministry visavis the heterodox; the function of baptism, the eucharist, and the ministry within the Orthodox Church; and the spiritual priorities of the Orthodox Church as they emerge from discussions of BEM. As I have noted, these insights I offer in a heuristic spirit from a corner of the Church which is not always heard or whose thoughts are often illtreated by those of a reformist spirit or by traditionalists who themselves, in a spirit of overstatement, ill serve their own positions.

With regard to baptism, the eucharist, and ministry outside the Orthodox Church, it is imperative that we regain a certain spiritual perspective which many of the Orthodox responses to Lima lack. We might initially approach the matter by emphasizing that the very juxtaposition of baptism, the eucharist, and the ministry as inclusive areas of theological concern is, to the Orthodox Christian, an artificial one. One cannot understand a single mystery of the Church—and here we are frankly talking about the sacramental acts of baptism, communion, and ordination, to use proper Orthodox nomenclature—either in terms of its content and form or in terms of its function, without understanding the spiritual Gestalt which the whole sacramental life forms. One might even argue, along with Saint Basil the hierarch, that the ecclesiological formulae by which we circumscribe the boundaries of the Church itself are bound up in the wholeness of life within the mysteries. In responding to BEM, our Orthodox observers must be constantly aware that the unity of life in the Church does not allow for an artificial separation of the elements of the Church's mosaic into areas of singular concern. For the Western Christian, pastoral, liturgical, and organizational issues can constitute self-standing and integrated subareas of theological discourse. To the Orthodox Christian, as evidenced by the patristic witness, there is a spiritual wholeness of such substance that one grasps the very status I and function of any single aspect of theological concern only from the integrated Uberansicht afforded within the vision of such wholeness.

Baptism, in the Orthodox spiritual tradition, is not simply entry into the church community or congregation as such, into the "koinotes ton piston," but also into a kind of spiritual communion, into the "koinonia ton piston kai tes pisteos," which binds together both the Church above and the Church below; indeed, the newlybaptized Christian is, to quote the prayers of the catechumenate, written "en biblio zoes" and united to the flock of those who inherit the things of God ( ... henoson auton te poimne tes kleronomias sou . . . "). Indeed, the entire experience of baptism in the Orthodox tradition has no universal focus, such as the forgiveness of original sin and the entry of an individual into the Christian oikoumene (in fact, these are rather sparsely cited in the baptismal texts), but rather intensely draws the candidate's attention to a personal struggle, within the confined limits of the Orthodox Church itself, with the power of the devil for the liberation of the soul and its union with God. Throughout the service of baptism, this theme is repeated and emphasized. In short, Orthodox baptism entails an entry into a community of believers who have made it their common goal to combat the wiles of the Evil One in the ancient ways placed before us by the living tradition of the Church. Baptism provides us with a spiritual rudder, sacred Tradition (which too often is misunderstood as an anchor), by which we engage in an effort to guide ourselves through the mirky waters of sin on the very Ark of Salvation, the Church of Christ. This special notion of baptism in the Orthodox Church obviously places it in a context far removed from that of the Western confessions, and especially the reformed (Calvinistic) groups, in which (a legacy from Latin Christian tradition as old as Augustinian thought itself) inordinate emphasis is placed both on the juridical nature of baptismal liberation and on the merely social aspects of entry into the community (koinotes) of believers. Many of the Orthodox reactions to the Lima Document fall short of an understanding of Orthodox baptismal theology and thus address issues that are really foreign to an Orthodox spiritual and patristic view of this mystery. They fail adequately to explicate that exclusive personal commitment in the joint context of the Church in heaven and on earth that characterizes the enlightened Orthodox Christian—that candidate for spiritual warfare with the demons who has been given the weapon of enlightened awareness both of his own potential participation in God and his own potential destruction by the power of darkness.

It is evident that, within a clear grasp of the Orthodox mystery of baptism, it is superficial to speak of the "acceptance" of non-Orthodox baptisms as "valid" or gracebestowing. In the first place, we have pointed out that there is an exclusive commitment within the Orthodox Church that identifies the newlyenlightened Orthodox Christian. This commitment is appropriate to the struggle defined and delineated by sacred Tradition—by Orthodox tradition. It is in a failure to apprehend this basic truth that so many contemporary Orthodox theologians, with an inadequate footing in the patristic literature, come to imagine that the act of oikonomia, that is, of the Church acting beyond herself by the creation of grace in the empty vessels of heterodox baptismal ceremonies, is one of accepting baptismal grace outside Orthodoxy. The Church acts beyond herself in these instances out of respect for the intent of the baptismal act and with regard to its form (preferably triple immersion in the name of the Trinity). In no sense is this "acceptance," as a young Orthodox theologian has recently pointed out in his study of the much abused and misused First Canon of Saint Basil, [3] anything more than a recognition of the "charismatic quality," as Father Florovsky has expressed it, of a nonOrthodox sacramental act. The mystery of Orthodox baptism, by which we " ... accept the death of our propensity for visible things," to quote Saint Maximos the Confessor, involves not only an immersion into the inner life of the Church, but signifies a move away from the external grace that touches those outside Orthodoxy to that internal grace which is a sign of those baptized into Orthodoxy. In the words of Saint Diadochos of Photiki, in his texts on spiritual knowledge and discernment, before holy baptism, "Grace leads the soul toward good from without.... From the moment that we are reborn in baptism, however, ... grace dwells within." The Church is the repository of this inner grace and the source of that which sustains inner grace. Baptism outside the Orthodox Church, then, is an act detached from the inner life of the Church and separated from the special state of enlightenment that rises above those who, while confessing Christ and honoring the form of baptism put forth in the Gospels, nonetheless are not part of the evangelical call to struggle that is embodied in death to one's self and to the "putting on of Christ" within Orthodoxy. Oikonomia, like a magnet of evangelical love, draws those who have embraced the iron faith of Christ. In accepting a nonOrthodox act of baptism, it takes that iron, melts it on the forge of the Church's divine authority, and gives it form and internal strength. In no sense, however, does it recognize that which is purportedly spiritual formation outside Orthodoxy to be anything other than crude filaments of faith. There is but one baptism, if indeed there are many callings and many confessions. And that one baptism is not one in form, but one in gracebestowing efficacy, rising out of the unique and exclusive authority of the criterion of truth which is the Orthodox faith.

" To poterion tes evlogias ho evlogoumen, ouchi koinonia tou aimatos tou Christou esti? Ton arton hon klomen, ouchi koinonia tou somatos tou Christou estin? Hoti heis artos, hen soma hoi polloi esmen... " (1 Corinthians 10.16-17). It is on this biblical truth that the spiritual understanding of the eucharist—indeed, of the Divine Liturgy itself—in the Orthodox Church rests. It is a patristic consensus drawn from the truth of this passage that forms the image of the eucharist which we have received from our Fathers. We directly participate in the blood and flesh of Christ when we partake of the blessed cup and the broken bread of the eucharistic rite. And in this participation, which is liturgical and at once communityoriented and profoundly personal, those who are separate become one body. This sharing is real, local, and rooted in a common identity expressed by the Church, the Body of Christ. This basic formula, the essence of Orthodox spiritual life, is one which our contemporary Orthodox theologians too seldom take into ecumenical dialogue. Caught in dialogues which define the Church around and apart from the eucharistic community, they depart from the basic truth of life in Christ that defines Orthodoxy itself. Saint Ignatios the Antiochian writes that unity with one's bishop and adherence to the teachings of those who guide us in the Church (that is, the bishop along with the presbyters and deacons) is unity with Christ. This unity, realized in its fullness in the eucharist, proceeds but from one eucharist. The pleroma of the Faith, then, expressed in the common spiritual experience and ecclesiastical reality of the Orthodox Church, derives from, rests in, and is realized through the eucharistic rite. Church is eucharist; the bishop is the Church; the eucharist and the bishop exist in a unity which characterizes the unity of all believers in Christ. In this spiritual whole, in these inseparable truths, one finds a perspicious exposition of the Orthodox Church's true eucharistic teaching.

The ecumenical concerns of BEM have led a few Orthodox thinkers to speak of a Christian presence in the eucharistic ceremonies and commemorations of the heterodox, in an effort to extend the profoundly eucharistic life of Orthodoxy to those outside her boundaries. One must laud these efforts in recognizing a rightness of intention. However, it should be clear that the spiritual meaning of the eucharist in the Orthodox church life precludes a recognition of eucharistic reality, as we Orthodox understand it, in the heterodox confessions. What they do possess in their eucharistic rites is something which we must respect and honor. At the same time, we must flatly and clearly deny that what they possess is analogous to or isomorphic with the Orthodox eucharist. Even the form of the Orthodox eucharistic rite cannot be separated from the spiritual life of those who have taken part in it: the spiritual lives of "those who have fallen asleep in the Faith, forefathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and every righteous spirit in faith made perfect" (from the mystical prayers of the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom). Orthodox find not only the pleroma, or fullness, of the Faith in their unity, one with another, in the earthly realm, but in communion with the Church that has passed on. And this unity is not only one in form and in expressed faith, but in that process of perfection which is the Orthodox way. The faith of the Orthodox Christian is perfected fully in the eucharist—the eucharistic rite constituting the very raison d'etre of the assembled body of believers—and it is unthinkable that one should imagine the eucharist as the Orthodox Church understands it to exist beyond those who define it and whom it defines. It is the body, forms the body, and exists for and through the body of Orthodox believers: "kata panta kai dia panta. "

General discussions among Orthodox over the Lima Document's views on the ministry reveal a certain timidity, if not unsureness, about the nature of the priesthood within the Church. This timorous spirit is apparent in several of the Brookline documents, too. Again, the Orthodox reaction to BEM, here with regard to the priesthood, must be unequivocally patristic and must reach into the spiritual traditions of the Church. Initially, we must realize that the priesthood rises out of the spiritual needs of the people. Without the people, the priesthood is not service, but temptation. We read, for example, in Saint John Cassian's discourses on selfesteem (a "malevolent demon" given an opportunity for action in our "every activity"), of a certain monk who had decided to ordain himself a deacon. One of the desert elders, who occasioned to pass by the young man's cell, heard him dismissing the catechumens in his fanciful celebration of the Divine Liturgy. The monk was not praised as having noble goals, but stands before us as an example of one suffering from "stupidity," to use the words of Cassian. A true priest realizes his calling and his subjugation to the Church only from within the body of the Church—from the royal priesthood of the believers. The man himself, apart from those whom he serves, is "dust and ashes," as Saint Theognostos tell us in his discourse on the virtues, and realizes the angelic state of the priesthood only through the corporate body of believers. Aside from the ecclesia, the local church of baptized believers meeting in the oneness of the eucharist, there is no priesthood. Even the royal priesthood itself, we should note, is defined by the ecclesia, by the local congregation of believers. If the priest serves the royal priesthood only when he functions to protect the spiritual lives entrusted to him, the royal priesthood in turn constitutes a body of believers only when it is involved in the struggle against the world which is the essence of spiritual life. As Saint John Chrysostomos tells us, the priest is a member of the struggling body of Christians. One—the priest or the believer—cannot be defined without the other. And without the Orthodox spiritual life, both are impossible.

Certainly the Orthodox respondents to BEM are right to acknowledge a calling to Christian service outside the Orthodox Church. And certainly all Orthodox must recognize the salutary role of Christian leaders in the priesthood and ministry of the heterodox. Again, however, we must never go beyond the spiritual dimensions of our own faith and speak of the Orthodox priesthood outside the Orthodox community. If timidity leads us to such admissions, the admissions are nonetheless absurd. The bishop is the Church. And the priesthood proceeds from the bishop. The ecclesia of the local community, the body of believers united around the bishop (quite literally in the early Church), exists as, within, and through the bishop. The bishop in turn exists through and within the people. Without this close interaction—an interaction which manifests the ecclesiastical reality of Orthodoxy—there is no priesthood. So it is that, even in extreme forms of economy, such as the reception of Uniate priests by vesting (a common practice in the last century in Slavic Orthodox churches), the Church first seeks out the ecclesiastical reality of a community of believers bound to the spiritual traditions of the Orthodox Church. This is the root of "apostolic succession"—a common historical bond which effects the grace of Orthodox spiritual life. It is quite wrong, then, for contemporary Orthodox observers to imagine (indeed, "fantasize") that the Orthodox priesthood exists "kat 'oikonomia" outside the boundaries of Orthodoxy, for any exercise of economy with regard to the priesthood rests in an understanding of the "communal" experience in the life of the mysteries. Uniates separated from the structure of the Church, yet maintaining the communal reality from which the priesthood is drawn, were candidates for this "restoration" of orders quite simply because they represented a special case in a special historical circumstance. Rather than provide evidence for an "acceptance" of orders beyond Orthodoxy, they attest to the rigidly "communal" and traditional parameters of the priesthood, which is preserved to some extent in the communal reality of an Orthodox spiritual life lived even outside the formal community of the catholic congregation. (Needless to say, as a critical interjection, the extension of this "economic" recognition of communal Orthodox life to contemporary Uniates, who themselves confess to estrangement from Orthodox spiritual traditions and who have often received their orders from Latin bishops, is an absurdity.) Clearly, as we have seen in the baptismal and eucharistic life of the Orthodox Church, the integration of the priesthood into the spiritual ethos of "Orthodoxy rules out the reception of heterodox ministry as an analog to sacerdotal service within the Orthodox Church. The priesthood rises out of Orthodoxy and is defined only within its spiritual domain.

Orthodox responses to BEM, both in the Brookline documents and in general comments from different circles in the Church, point to an urgent need for a return to the patristic and spiritual sources of our beliefs and traditions in addressing the heterodox. But insufficient grounding in the consensual body of patristic doctrine has led many to imagine that the Fathers disagree on the issue of mysteries outside the Orthodox Church. Separating canons from theology and theological speculation from spiritual life sets Fathers at artificial odds with one another, when in fact our own misreading and lack of intellectual acumen, not the Fathers, are at fault. We must come to understand that the whole patristic witness is one which establishes Orthodoxy as the kriterion of Christianity. It is the absolute truth from which relative truths are derived. It is the essence from which Christian energies flow. It is the standard against which any authentic confession of Christ must be measured. And this exclusive nature of Orthodoxy is not one which discourages the non-Orthodox from approaching the standard, but is one which invites and attracts the heterodox. Thus the apparent discord between the Fathers which leads some observers to posit that some Orthodox Fathers admit to mysteries outside Orthodoxy while others do not. The spiritual life, which reifies the "criterion of truth" (to use the expression of Saint Irenaios), constitutes a breeding ground for spiritual transformation and for development of that discretion by which a Father can, in one instance, honor the intent and quality of a nonOrthodox sacrament (discerning, as it were, the closeness of its relative truth to the criterion of truth within Orthodoxy), and in another reject such a sacrament. By extension, one can understand the ostensible differences between Fathers, living in different times and dealing with greater or lesser deviations from the standard of truth, in their differing dispositions to accept or reject nonOrthodox sacramental acts. In no instance, however, can a careful reader and a practitioner of the Orthodox spiritual life fail to understand that acts of "oikonomia" reach out to that which by definition lacks that internal, vivifying grace which rests only in the bosom of the Orthodox Church and which is the peculiar quality of the "criterion of truth". Whatever respect various Fathers show for the charismatic and external qualities of grace which proceed from the heterodox believer and from heterodox sacramental acts, there are simply no instances, within the consensual thought and spirituality of the Fathers, of a recognition of the pleroma of grace which is contained in the Orthodox mysteries beyond Orthodoxy. Anyone who imagines such is reading the Fathers out of context, outside of their spiritual ethos, and with prejudgment.

It is perhaps appropriate to note, too, that the contemporary ecumenical movement has produced its own goals and its own ethos. In such an atmosphere, Orthodox respondents are at times captivated by a spirit which runs crosscurrent to the ethos of their own faith. All of us would, to be sure, welcome a unified Christian witness. All of us wish, in some way, to extend to others the benefits of faith which we glean from our own confessions. We wish to share our faith with others who confess Christ and who embrace the spiritual world. Unless we overcome a certain intellectual immaturity, however, these things can begin to distort our Orthodox faith—especially when we are inadequately immersed in its more profound expressions and more articulate apologetical expositions. We hence begin to wish for all things to be "one," for all beliefs to be essentially the same. Yet while heterodox may find some natural evidence for this unity, we still find such only in an artificial presentation of our faith, which leads us to frustration and despair at times. In at least one of the Brookline documents we can see such despair. It is imperative that we turn from such a course and fully admit that the criterion from which Christian truth is drawn, the true Orthodox faith, has only peripheral connections with the truths drawn from it, much as a compound loses many of the properties of its dominant element, while nonetheless sharing certain properties which other compounds of the same element possess. The relationship between relative truths is far greater than the relation of relative truths to the criterion of truth from which they are drawn, if only because that criterion has a quality (potency or, in the spiritual sense, grace) not contained in its derivatives. If we can understand this, then we can charitably embrace the nonOrthodox and yet move ever closer to the spiritual truths of Orthodoxy from which so many of us are both practically and intellectually removed in this age of inadequate patristic study and spiritual struggle.

In addition to an estrangement from the patristic and spiritual parameters of the relationship between Orthodox mysteries and non-Orthodox sacramental acts, it is clear from Orthodox reactions to BEM, both of a formal and informal kind, that our thinkers and believers have lost sight of the function of the Orthodox mysteries of baptism, the eucharist, and ordination. It seems to me quintessential that we come to a thorough understanding of this function before we react either positively or negatively to the Lima document. We must reflect carefully on the role that these three mysteries play in the spiritual life of the Orthodox Church and offer comments and reactions formed within such reflection. Indeed, spiritual life is utilitarian. It aims at something. No aspect of the Church can be understood without reference to this spiritual aim, and any presentation of Orthodox views that inadequately captures this aim also inadequately enters into dialogue with the heterodox.

As we have noted, there is a unity of function into which baptism, the eucharist, and ministry fall. Within this unity of function we can talk about these three elements of spiritual life separately, but only with a constant and vigilant eye toward the Gestalt—as we have called it—of the Orthodox spiritual experience. The whole of Orthodox spirituality, encompassing the mysteries, anthropology, cosmology, the person, and God in his energetic relationship to man, was expressed simply and succinctly by Saint Seraphim Sarov, the great Russian elder, in his famous conversation with Motovilov: as an effort toward "acquiring the Holy Spirit." All other things, "prayer, fasting, vigils, and ... other Christian practices," the saint tells us, are absolutely necessary to the Christian life, but are mere "means to an end." This acquisition of the Holy Spirit is the very union of man with God through grace. As Father Florovsky has written: "The ultimate aim and purpose of human life was defined in the patristic tradition as theosis [divinization], ... an intimate 'communion with God,' through Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit." [4] Salvation, to quote Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, is impossible without this "enlightenment" that comes through the Holy Spirit in theosis, in direct fulfillment of the ancient aphorism, variously quoted by a number of Fathers, that Christ became man that men might become gods (here we use the phrase of Saint Gregory the Theologian). The purpose of the entire spiritual life—encompassing the mysteries—is that of the permeation of "the whole of human existence . . .by the Divine Presence," again to cite the words of Father Florovsky.[5] The function of baptism, the eucharist, and the priesthood in the Orthodox Church can be understood only in reference to this singular aim of the Orthodox spiritual life. Unless we approach nonOrthodox with a thorough understanding of what the Orthodox spiritual aim actually is—this aim which is so peculiar to the Orthodox East and so foreign (if not offensive [6]) to the heterodox ear—then we are not honest in our exchanges. And unless we fully immerse ourselves in the Fathers and understand this peculiar aim, we are perhaps not fully honest, or at least versed, in our Orthodoxy.

Indeed, how differently we look at baptism, the eucharist, and the priesthood when we realize that they fall under the spiritual umbrella of our common Orthodox goal of divinization. The enlightenment of baptism, the activation of the spiritual mind (the nous, as Saint Gregory Palamas calls it), becomes an integral part of the ascent toward spiritual transformation, beginning right here on earth, that leads us to our participation in the divine: " ... hina dia touton genesthe theias koinonoi physeos" (2 Peter 1.4). It is in baptism that we begin a process by which God wishes not to make us Christians alone, "sed Christum [but Christ]," to quote Saint Augustine of Hippo. Baptism is but an introduction into that life of transformation which occurs in the ecclesia and for and through the community of believers. It has no other function and cannot be understood, in its Orthodox form, aside from that function. It is not so important that we regain a liturgical understanding of baptism in the Orthodox Church (its restoration to a status closely tied to the Divine Liturgy, or its separation from the social setting in which it is often celebrated, for example), as so many argue, but that we grasp profoundly the spiritual meaning of holy baptism and its function in spiritual life.

The eucharist, by the same token, is fully understood only as we recognize its function as a weapon in the war against the world and our fallen natures. The eucharist is the "medicine of immortality," as the patristic texts so frequently call it, by which we cure ourselves of the fallen nature of sin and the instrument of spiritual restoration by which Christ, to quote Saint Hesychios, "will enlighten our mind ever more and cause it to shine like a star." If baptism introduces us to the struggle for the death of the flesh and union with God, it is the eucharist which sustains us in this struggle. It is a direct participation in perfect manhood through the partaking of Christ, the perfect God and the perfect man. As Saint John Chrysostomos tells us, we become "his flesh and his bones." And this oneness with Christ serves the function of moving us continually away from the world and mortal flesh to the "life in Christ," as Nicholas Kabasilas describes the sacramental life, and union with God that begins here on earth. Knowing this to be the function of the eucharist, contemporary misunderstandings of fasting and preparation for communion fade away. We come to understand, along with the great Abba Philemon who, though a priest, dared only serve very infrequently at the altar, that we should participate in the mystery of Christ only in a "pure and chaste condition," approaching the mystery "free from the flesh" and "free from all hesitation and doubt," that we might wholly participate in "the enlightenment that proceeds forth from [it]." The whole of the spiritual life is one of attaining illumination and perfection, and the divine gift of the eucharist comes to fulfill efforts toward purity in our daily lives and in our own human will. The eucharist is a food for those who move toward the holy: "Holy things for the holy," as the Divine Liturgy says. It is death for those who fail to recognize its function. Fasting, abstinence from holy communion by women in their periods, abstinence by men polluted by nocturnal emissions—contemporary objections to these fade when we begin to grasp the true function of the eucharist and its divine aid in our human efforts toward perfection and our daily spiritual struggle with the world and its evil. The ascent toward perfection is centered in the eucharist and we appropriately approach it as something which functions in concord with our highest human goals, aims, and efforts.

Need we here say much, now, about the priesthood? It is obvious that the ministry of the Church brings together all of our efforts toward salvation. Baptism, the eucharist, the ministry: these are impossible without the priesthood. The priest rises above that which is personal, as we can so vividly see in the service of vesting, in which he takes off the "old man" and puts on the new. The novus homo of the priesthood is, indeed, Christ acting on earth, in human form, through the priest. His gift of enlightenment at baptism, his indwelling of the believer in the eucharist, and indeed all of the acts of intervention in the life of the world by which it is transformed—all of the mysteries—are effected through the priesthood. If the Orthodox spiritual life has a unique goal and if baptism and the eucharist play a specific role in the attainment of this goal, the priesthood is integrated into this role by its very function. The priesthood exists for this Orthodox spiritual goal and only when it functions as a channel for the roles played by the various mysteries in consort does it properly exist. It is something par excellence Orthodox and exists, as the Orthodox receive it, only within the Orthodox Church. It is, as it were, an appropriate feature of Orthodoxy.

Above all else, it seems to me, the challenge of BEM for the Orthodox Church is one of understanding our priorities as we face other Christians—priorities drawn from an authentic understanding of our Church and from acute selfunderstanding. The Brookline documents and popular reactions to BEM on the parish level make it abundantly clear that we have a long way to go in defining, let alone realizing, these priorities. We must first move away from the growing tendency to react to challenges from our circumscribed spiritual experiences. Often we criticize our Church and call it to task without really knowing what our faith teaches. This is especially true in America, where at least one of the large jurisdictions was, not so many generations ago, largely Uniate and thus cut off from the living experience of Orthodoxy and from those "holy men" to whom Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow advises to us appeal in understanding a spirituality which, after all, rests always on action and praxis. There is a growth which must take place in the Orthodox world in the West, where the bulk of ecumenical encounters occur, before we can respond from an authentic Orthodox position. At the same time, secondly, we must also move away from an evaluative stance which is otherdependent; that is, it is time to see and correct the spiritual faults which we evidence when we measure ourselves against Orthodox standards, not against the standards given to us by the heterodox. If to the nonOrthodox our ethnic communities have failed in some dimen, sion of faith essential to the heterodox Weltansicht, it is important for us to know that the heterodox do not share in, necessarily sympathize with, or even comprehend our Orthodox experience. We must evaluate our successes and shortcomings by Orthodox standards. And here again, for those Orthodox in the West who have only for a generation or so found themselves free from the Uniate domination, it is essential too that they shed any standards or criteria of judgment that they may have brought with them, even unwittingly, from the Unia and turn to the Orthodox experience. Without these initial steps, which are difficult and which demand from us humility and patience, we cannot speak of Orthodox priorities, but will simply sink in end less efforts to live up to priorities imposed on our spiritual tradition from without—priorities which impede selfunderstanding and compromise authentic expression.

If we understand the goal of Orthodox life as the divinization of man, and if we can come to apprehend that this goal is uniquely bound up with Orthodoxy as with no other faith, then we can fulfill the ecumenical role foreseen some decades ago by Father Florovsky: the of witnessing to the standard of Christianity, the goal of goals and truth of truths, before our fellow Christians. To do this, however, we must rise above the tyrannical absolutism of a contemporary relativism that disallows proclamations of exclusivity. We must not let the ecumenical spirit, which purports to be based on tolerance, take from us, in the name of tolerance, our right to be what we have always considered ourselves to be: the historical Church of Christ from which all other Christians have derived their beliefs and confessions. Needless to say, we must also rise above the tyranny of our selfimposed ignorance of the criterion of Christianity which Orthodoxy is. Recently, the renowned Greek churchman, Metropolitan Augoustinos of Florina, wrote that: "If the Divine Liturgy is celebrated and attended with faith, it is enough to demonstrate that ours is the true religion. In no other religion in this world, in no religious service of the nonChristian world, is there the grandeur which shines in our Divine Liturgy." [7] We should note that the boldness of this statement is tempered by the warning that the Liturgy must be "celebrated and attended with faith." In the same way, a careful, attentive knowledge of our Orthodoxy, gained from faithful and reverent study, not from a spirit of critical doubt, leads us to the boldness of finding in our faith the fullness of Christianity, the "true religion," and the religion which is like "no other religion in this world." Our basic priority in encountering the heterodox should be the attainment of this discovery. Otherwise we are not honest in what we present to others.

It is also time for us to attribute the divisions and disunity among Orthodox to ourselves and to our improper understanding of church tradition. Whether one reads confessed Orthodox "traditionalists," "reformists," "modernists," or whatever, he seldom discovers today an appeal to sacred tradition and to the Fathers who achieved unity—above and beyond their personal differences—in the commonality and catholicity of the Orthodox spiritual life. Rather, he finds constant personal attacks, jurisdictional hatred, and the like. Many Orthodox are more likely to accept nonOrthodox as valid Christians than those fellow Orthodox who may differ from them in their understanding of the Orthodox faith! This is an absurdity which is supported by extreme ecumenism and which bespeaks a total spirit of immaturity. We must establish the priority of knowing one another, we Orthodox, before we address others. And before we can even imagine unity with other Christians, we must attend to the priority of finding unity among ourselves—and this, not by throwing stones at one another and retreating into canons which we do not adequately understand—by returning to the tradition which lies hidden in the Orthodox spiritual life and which neither creates nor bestows, but makes manifest true unity. Unity among ourselves may indeed entail a rejection of the ecumenist's vision of unity; it may entail the loss of some who, thinking themselves Orthodox, will discover, in dialogue with strictly traditionalist Orthodox, that they neither are nor wish to be Orthodox; and it may entail painful sacrifice and alienation from others. The end result, however, will be an intense spiritual renewal in our Church, a move toward the reconstruction of our pristine Orthodox standard before the nonOrthodox world, and the kind of compelling evangelical call to unity which can only come from those who are united in their separation and whose separate status beckons others to the peculiar "people apart" who are the standard of Christian personhood.


1. Christos Yannaras, "Theology in PresentDay Greece," St. Vladimir's Seminary Quarterly, 16 (1972) 200f.

2. John Davies, Nosce Teipsum.

3. Gregory Telepneff, "Baptism and Grace," Orthodox Tradition, 3 (1986) 7680.

4. Georges Florovsky, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View (Belmont, MA., 1972), 114f.

5. Ibid., 115.

6. A popular Protestant series of the Church Fathers in translation, in one of its early editions, actually took such offense at Saint Gregory's reference to man's divinization that the phrase, "that men might become gods," in order to avoid "heathenish interpretations," to quote the translator, was rendered "that men might become God's."

7. Augoustinos N. Kantiotes [Metropolitan], On the Divine Liturgy: Orthodox Homilies, Vol. 1 (Belmont, MA., 1986), p. 29.

"Bishop Chrysostomos of Etna and the St. Gregory Palamas Monastery was invited by the editor of The Greek Orthodox Theological Review to write a traditionalist Orthodox response to Father Thomas Hopko's positive assessment of the Lima BEM document. His article, 'BEM and Orthodox Spirituality', appeared in 1987 (Vol. 32, pp. 51-68) and clearly shows that the BEM document was formulated by Orthodox representatives with an unclear view of the Church's teachings on Baptism, the ministry, and the Eucharist. Partly as a consequence of his sharp critique of this pivotal ecumenical agreement and partly because, as an Old Calendarist zealot, he poses a threat to modernist Orthodox spokesmen in general, Bishop Chrysostomos is no longer allowed to publish with the presses of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese [he had been widely published in the GOTR; Holy Cross Press published numerous books of his as well]. We see from this fact that the ecumenical movement is apparently unable to examine dissenting views or willing to engage in the kind of free exchange which is the basis of any real dialogue." Fr. Daniel Degyansky, Orthodox Christianity and the Spirit of Contemporary Ecumenism (Etna, CA: The Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1992), 64, fn. 98. See also Father Thomas Hopko on BEM, also by Archbishop Chrysostomos.