Thoughts on our Recent Dialog

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Thank you to all for your comments.

I would please remind everyone—as I have some privately—that charity and respect for others are not optional here.

Reading through the various comments, I do not think I have anything to add to the comments offered. This is especially the case in those offered by Chrys and Sherry.

The “Called & Gifted” workshop is certainly not without its own challenges. But it is worth noting, I think, that this kind of practical exchange between Catholic and Orthodox Christians—especially on the grassroots level—has a long history. This is especially so in Russia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. To take but one example, no less venerable an Orthodox saints than Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and Theophan the Recluse offered their own version of the Roman Catholic text Unseen Warfare: The Spiritual Combat and Path to Paradise of Lorenzo Scupoli.

St Theophan’s work, to take another quick example, is noteworthy for his incorporation into an Orthodox spiritual context of the decidedly Counter-Reformation theme from Catholic spirituality of the dark night of the soul/spirit (San Juan de la Cruz).

And of course there is the defense of St Augustine by Blessed Seraphim Rose of Platina.

It seems to me that in any conversation between Catholics and Orthodox, both sides must exercise great care that we hold ourselves above the polemics of the Reformation/Counter-Reformation era. This is something, I must point out in the strongest possible terms, that historically voices on both sides have failed to do. It is somewhat ironic, to me at least, that in the contemporary Orthodox theology, some of the most strongly polemic voiced sentiments, at least in the Russian tradition, are found in the anti-scholastic passages of the works of J. Meyendoroff, A. Schmemann and V. Lossky. What makes this ironic is that these men are often characterized by self-professed Traditionalists in the Orthodox Church as liberals (or if you rather, modernists).

Orthodox theology—including the theological scholarship of the men I just referenced—would be much the poorer it seems to me without the work of such Catholic scholars as H. von Balthasar, H. de Lubuc, and L. Bouyer who in leading the return of Catholic theology to the Fathers also made possible a like return among the Orthodox.

Finally, and unless I miss my guess all, or at least most, of those who have commented on the “Called & Gifted” workshop are ourselves converts to either Catholicism or Orthodoxy. One great temptation, especially I must say frankly and directly for those who were not well ground in the Great Tradition prior to their becoming Orthodox or Catholic, is to assume wrongly that the Catholic or Orthodox incarnation that, by God’s grace they have found, exhausts that the Great Tradition. If, as a matter of faith, we hold that one expression (East or West, Greek or Latin) is theologically normative, we may not reasonably assume as a consequence that normative equals exhaustive. It does not. Let me go further and say that neither tradition is exhaustive in its articulation of the Gospel. And, likewise, we cannot understand either the Western or Eastern expression of the Great Tradition separate from, much less in opposition to, the other.

If East and West have grown apart in recent years, this separation does not undo our shared historical foundation. Much less does schism undo over 1,000 years of communion anymore than my sin undoes the grace given me in Baptism.

Acknowledging as we do baptism in each other’s community, reminds us that there exists between us a real, if imperfect, communion. And, even if we argue that baptism is absent in other tradition, we would do well—or so it seems to me—to remember that we have put on Christ in Whom God has joined Himself to all humanity. Vested now in the grace of Holy Baptism, having been incorporated into the Body of Christ, I have then also, and with my Lord, been joined in Him to those He has already united Himself to in the Incarnation. If I really believe that I am in Christ, then, in Christ, I am also already joined, as is He, personally to the whole human family.

Who then am I to say by my words or deeds that I would refuse this gift from the hands of my Lord and the Master of my life?

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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