The Ecclesiology of Reunion

So now begins the real agony.

We can say as Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians that the content of our Christology is substantially the same.

But now the evclesiological implications are manifold.

1. Was any side ever the fullness of Christ's Church after Chalcedon. If so, is it possible for Christ's Church to wrongly attribute heresy not just to individuals, but to saints?

2. If neither side was the fullness of Christ's Church, did Christ's Church cease to exist visibly?

3. Can we say that both sides were equally the Church, but that after the schism the capacity to infallibly determine doctrine independent of the other was stalled? Was either side entitled to hold an ecumenical council without the other?

4. Can we say both sides were the one Orthodox Church of Christ, that the inward unity was kept, the outward unity of administration damaged, and that christ worked in both to preserve his one truth, although the administrative structures wrongly accused the other side of holding heretical opinions?

5. If truth is really substantially identical between the two families of Orthodoxy, how do we explain mutually recognized saints who wrote against one side or the other? For example, St. Symeon the Stylite was pro-Chalcedonian, St. Shenoude was anti-Chalcedonian and both were contemporaries.

6. Many of the Eastern Orthodox have this mentality that the monastics are an infallible rule of faith for determining tradition, so they keep their eyes on Athos. Unfortunately they seem oblivious to the fact that all of Egypt kept their eyes on Scetis, Jerusalem on the Jordan Wilderness, and Antioch on the Syrian Monastics led by Barsauma, and they all rejected Chalcedon. So WHAT is the particular significance of relying on monastics for theology and Ecclesiology when from THEIR perspective it "didn't work" for massive sectors of the Church?

In short how can we have unity without compromising the visible unity of the Church and even imputing blasphemy to her (that the Church can officially and wrongly condemn saints as heretics)? Isn't the Church supposed to be protected from this kind of mistake?


  • edited December 2016
    Good questions. I think we need to understand proper ecclesiology first. There is this blogger who also tackles this question who I think did a good job explaining:

    One of the links he referred to is dead, but I found another link that may help. It is part of Fr. Laurent's book "His Broken Body": on Ecclesiology, Apostolic and Petrine Succession, Primacy, etc.pdf

    The idea is this. The word "Catholic" does not necessarily mean "universal" or "ecumenical." It means "according to the whole". The way it is summarized is this. If you receive the Eucharist in various sizes and times, you still receive the fullness of Jesus Christ, humanity and divinity, in you. Our Lord did not partition or multiply Himself; He is the same eternal Lord we eat while He is seated at the right hand of Glory in the uncreated Holy of Holies, and we are transported into the Kingdom as many times as necessary for our spiritual growth. Therefore, every single parish with a valid Eucharist is "the Catholic Church" under proper episcopal authority, no matter how big or small the parish is, no matter the time or circumstance. If you truly believe the Eucharist is eternal, above time and space, one can extend that in a mystery to ecclesiology.

    Local parishes and patriarchates have schismed throughout history, big or small, in short or relatively longer times. While on earth 1500-year schism of two enormous families is a difficult burden, but is it a burden in the realm of eternity?

    I hope those links will help answer your question. The second one is 81 pages but well worth the read.

    God bless.
  • Just as an add-on, recently I've been reading this book by Yonatan Moss on St. Severus's fight with Julianism. Apparently, despite fighting the heresy of Chalcedonianism as he saw it, he did not see the Chalcedonians as a separate church and was very adamant not to cause a schism as much as possible, to be as vigorous in refutation, but not in isolation.
  • I fully embrace eucharistic ecclesiology, but ask this question: Is the Church intended by Christ to be an infallible guide to the truth which is visible and knowable?

    I do not think that a division in a common union of Churches based on misunderstanding, so long as it really IS misunderstanding, precludes Christ's ability to preserve in either communion the fullness of the truth, even without reference to one another. For he operates in both as one, and in fact the truly remarkable thing to be acknowledged is that the Orientals and Easterners have both preserved the Truth of Christ untarnished albeit in various expressions; and he takes account of our misunderstandings and graciously condescends to our weakness in order to preserve the whole in the other.

    We see this in our fathers themselves: What they DID condemn, they condemned rightly and not wrongly. What they identified as heresy is indeed heresy, and each of their responses to it, as a response to heresy, is appropriate, more or less.

    BUT they erred in regard to names and persons, but not the truth of the faith.

    I would like to see at least a fuller hypothesis explaining our relation to one another, the indefectibility, the visibility and infallibility of the one Orthodox Church, but I think this is the heart of it.

    to put it another way: Israel is the Old Testament Church, and after the death of Solomon, the Kingdom was divided. But God himself treated both the Kingdom of judah and the House of israel as "Israel" and both had a claim to his promises. AND he was with and favored the minority in the end, Judah. Perhaps we are not so different. Perhaps one of us is NOT Samaritan after all! ;-)
  • By the way I haven't forgotten this last post. I have an answer, but I'm reading this other long thesis that could also answer your question.
  • edited December 2016
    So I followed you until the last paragraph, simply because the Church is not bound by time and space like Jerusalem.  Remember Christ's discussion with the Samaritan woman?  When the 10 tribes separated from Judah, it is Judah which is where only true worship is.  But Christ told the Samaritan woman that there will come a time where we no longer worship in Jerusalem or a mountain, but in Spirit and Truth.  Therefore, the analogy of one us being "NOT" Samaritan makes no sense because we do not claim racial and spatial superiority anymore.  The Church is by Spirit and Truth, by the Faith, not by place and time.

    The reason why I took so long responding is because I was reading this long St. Vladimir's thesis by Will Cohen:

    I think it confirms and could answer a lot of your questions, as it addresses in details your concerns.  I am generally in agreement with this thesis.

    Merry Christmas Aelwyn (assuming you celebrate it today)
Sign In or Register to comment.