Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Ochlophobist on the Ravenna document

Thank you for those who contributed to the discussion in the post below on the Ravenna Document. Thank you too to those who pointed to the Ochlophobist's blog on the matter (drinking wine together is never a bad thing in ecumenical circles so at least he acknowledges that there is something positive about these meetings).

Of all that he had to say, I found most interesting the statement:
I will remind you, dear reader, of your Ochlophobist's first rule of Orthodox/Catholic "dialogue" - that for reunion to take place one of the two communions will have to cease to be who she is now.
There is a sense in which this is true and two senses in which it is false.

The sense in which it is true is that any future full communion between the Orthodox Churches and Catholic Church (I abhore the description "Roman" Catholic, which applies only to the diocese of Rome--I am a Melbourne Catholic in communion with the See of Rome, and my Ukrainian friends are Ukraininan Catholic in communion with the See of Rome, etc.) will require each of us to "die to ourselves" in some way in order to "rise with Christ" as a new creation. So yes. There will be a "ceasing to be what we are now" required. This involves the whole tension between identity and unity which may (indeed) never be fully solved this side of the eschaton.

However, in another sense, keeping the mystery of the Resurrection in mind and St Paul's way of phrasing it, that which is sown is one thing, and that which is raised is still that same thing (continuity of identity) but radically transformed by the grace of God. Full communion between all the true particular Churches of God will mean that, by dying to ourselves, God will raise us to be like Christ (as we should be): a new existence, but an existence more perfectly conformed to the Risen Christ than we are now. So yes, the change required would mean that we are no longer what we are now (a discontinuity, if you like, with the past), but the nature of the new reality will be in radical continuity with the reality that we now have. Nothing will be lost except our sinfulness and what will be gained will be greater grace and holiness.

The second sense in which the Ochlophobist's "rule" is false is that the required change will not be and cannot be on only one side. Coming together into full communion will mean that in a whole range of aspects we will both have to change in order to embrace one another. Ochlophobist only points to a few of these many aspects. Unfortunately he seems to think that "reunion" will only be possible if one or the other shifts from where they are now and moves entirely to where the other is now. This is not true to truly Christian ecumenism. The only true ecumenism--true as in "acceptable to God"--is that in which both dialogue partners understand that they are on pilgrimage from where they are now to where Christ is calling them to be, ie. to Himself, to be one in Him alone and in his Truth and Holiness. Unless there is a willingness to enter into this pilgrimage--which will indeed be a Way of the Cross, a taking up of our Cross and following him to the point of death in order that we too may rise with him--there never will be and never can be a return to full communion.

But no Christian who truly believes in the paschal mystery can deny that this transformation can and must happen. In this lies all my hope for the future union of all Churches, East and West. I hope you do not think I am being naive in harbouring this hope, for it is not a hope in human beings, but a hope in God and in his Son Christ Jesus and in the power of his Holy Spirit.

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