Monday, May 19, 2008

Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamum on Apostolic Succession


Metropolitan John of Pergamum is a very interesting character. He is co-president of the joint commission for Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, a job he took over from our local Bishop Ezekiel. He has written many interesting essays and books, including this one on the Kasper-Ratzinger Universal/Local Church controversy.

Today I found this article on Apostolic Succession by Metropolitan John, which is a great read, and gives deep cause for pondering a topic that comes up regularly on this blog. I offer his remarks with the full awareness that he is an Orthodox, rather than a Catholic, theologian. But he is a GOOD theologian, and a good historian, and so any opinion he has is worth listening too (a bit like our friend Tom Wright, the Anglican bishop of Durham).

There are many comments I would like to highlight, but I thought this one worthwhile for starters:
Ireneaus is known for his insistence on the continuity of apostolic teaching through episcopal succession as a reaction against the claim of the gnostics that they have some kind of secret succession of teaching that goes back to the apostles (the Gnostics must have been the first ones to insist on succession of apostolic teaching).
Sehr interessantes, nicht wahr? And, for that matter, why did Ireneaus bother pointing to the succession of bishops as the guarantee of apostolic teaching, if he could simply have pointed to the apostolic scriptures alone?

22 Comments:

At Monday, May 19, 2008 3:30:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

Surely, in the time of Irenaeus, the canon of NT scripture was not yet settled, or at least not yet definitively settled? If so, a sola scriptura understanding of revelation was impossible at the time. If I point to such-and-such a text as the foundation for the message I preach, you can simply ask by what authority I identify the text as inspired. Hence anybody citing a particular text would have to be ready to say that the authority of that text was attested to or supported, by the episcopacy or by gnosis, depending on whether he was a Catholic or a Gnostic.

 
At Monday, May 19, 2008 4:16:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Our claim that we hold to the catholic faith, the apostolic teaching, is hardly based on anything secret.

We have much to gain and learn from the Fathers, but it is out of their confused age that the church said, here are the writings on which you can rely.

 
At Monday, May 19, 2008 4:43:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Your point is exactly mine, Peregrinus, if you think about it.

 
At Monday, May 19, 2008 10:50:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

Well, yes, it is.

But we don’t need Metropolitan John of Pergamum to draw our attention to this point. Surely every Protestant theologian has wrestled with it? If we look to scripture alone for revelation, and reject tradition, how do we know what “scripture” is?

I don’t trot this out smugly as a simple but devastating refutation of four hundred years of Protestantism. It’s such a an obvious point that I assume that everyone from Brother Martin onwards has reflected on it, and that there is an array of Protestant responses, which are found satisfactory by sincere, devout and thoughtful Christians who happen to be Protestant. I just don’t know what those responses are, but I assume they exist, and are well-known to those more theologically literate than I.

Of course, a well-educated ex-Lutheran would probably have some idea of them . . .

 
At Monday, May 19, 2008 11:18:00 pm , Blogger Fr John W Fenton said...

David,

I'm curious about Metropolitan John's co-presidency and would like to read more about these dialogues. However, the link you provide for "the joint commission for Orthodox-Catholic dialogue" sends me to the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox report. (As you know, the "Oriental Orthodox" are generally composed of those known historically as 'monophysite.')

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 12:10:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

Behr's (Orthodox priest teaching at St. Vladimir's Seminary just north of New York) treatment of St. Irenaeus is most interesting too. He argues:

"According to Irenaeus, his opponents' response to the charge that their teaching is not found in Scripture is simply to assert that these Scriptures are not authoritative, that they are inadequate for full knowledge, that they are ambiguous and need to be interpreted in the light of a tradition which is not handed down in writing but orally. That is, they appeal to a dichotomy between Scripture and tradition, understanding the latter oral communication of teaching derived from the apostles, containing material not found in the Scriptures yet which is needed to understand Scripture correctly." (Way to Nicea, 40)

"Irenaeus began his argument by asserting the identity between what the apostles preached publicly and subsequently wrote down. (Ibid, 41)

"While they appealed to tradition precisely for what was not in Scripture, or for principles which would legitimize their interpretation of Scripture, Irenaeus, in his appeal to tradition, was not appealing to anything else that was not also in Scripture. Thus Irenaeus can appeal to tradition, to establish his case, and at the same time maintain that Scripture cannot be understood except on the basis of Scripture itself, using its own hypothesis and canon." (Ibid, 45)

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 12:51:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

Yes, silly me, Fr F, I have fixed the link. It now takes you the page on the Vatican Website that lists all the Orthodox dialogues. Page down and you will find the list of Joint Theological Commission documents.

I would be very interested to know what you think of the Metropolitan's essay linked to on this blog entry.

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 1:02:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

Well, Pastor W., we certainly don't appeal to a "dichotomy between scripture and tradition", but a harmonius continuity. Nor to we say that the Scriptures are not authoritative (for were there to be anything in Scripture that falsified our doctrine of apostolic succession we would abandon it forthwith). So Behr's observations regarding Ireneaus's treatment of the doctrines of the Gnostics is probably spot on.

You are in error to compare our appeal to tradition to the Gnostics appeal to tradition. They appealed to "secret" tradition to support doctrines that were contrary to scripture. We appeal to tradition as evidence of historical practices which, though not explicit in scripture, are harmonius with Scripture.

We too would agree, with Ireneaus, that the apostles did not teach one thing and do another and write yet another. But no-one would be foolish enough to suppose that the apostles wrote down ALL the teaching of Jesus, or ALL the prescriptions for the Church? They didn't write a Church Administration manual, Pastor Bill.

The interesting thing that Metropolitan John points out is that the 2nd Century "Apostolic Traditions" contains ONLY rituals, not teaching. They contain evidence of what the Apostolic Church DID, rather than taught. Or, better yet, TAUGHT by means of what they DID in prayer (lex orandi etc.)

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 1:04:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

Non ex-Lutherans do not reject tradition, but note that not everything going by that name IS such. I really like Florovsky's definition of tradition as "Scripture interpreted correctly" - or Lossky's definition even more so: "The pure notion of Tradition can then be defined by saying that it is the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church, communicating to each member of the Body of Christ the faculty of hearing, or receiving, of knowing the Truth in the Light which belongs to it, and not according to the natural life of human reason." Hmm. Almost sounds like Lossky is saying tradition is something along the lines of "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has enlightened with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith, even as he calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith." Or something like that... ;)

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 1:09:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

David,

Two sources this day and age is SOOO out. But it is still the teaching of Trent, no? And yet it was clearly a misstep. The Sacred Scriptures are sufficient for the teaching of the Christian faith because in them the Holy Spirit speaks. The Church isn't about "interpretation" but about listening. He speaks and His words give what they promise and the Church lives, literally lives, from the hearing of those words - the words that cut to the heart and the words that bring joy and healing.

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 1:20:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

By the bye, Behr is very helpful on showing what and how St. Irenaeus means by canon - the lens, if you will, that the Apostolic writings (and oral teaching) bring to the Sacred Scriptures (meaning the OT) so that they focus clearly into view on the topic they wish to speak about: The great King - our Lord Jesus Christ. His famous analogy of the fox vs. great King mosaic is quite helpful. But the key is to recognize that he saw in the writings of the Apostles THE key for seeing the Sacred Scriptures (the OT) with a proper lens. The OT read through the NT apostolic witness yields you the glorious King who reigns upon the tree and who reaches out in love to unite all people into His one body through Holy Baptism and to nourish them with His body and blood in that new life that His incarnation, death and resurrection have brought into the world for us.

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 1:52:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

You are in error to compare our appeal to tradition to the Gnostics appeal to tradition.

Indeed.

Gnostic wisdom was often for the "enlightened few" and considering the gnostic contempt for the flesh there is absolutely no connection with the authentic [c][C]atholic tradition and gnosticism.

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 3:05:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

Also:

Non ex-Lutherans do not reject tradition, but note that not everything going by that name IS such.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal." Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own "always, to the close of the age.

...

The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus' teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition.

...

Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium.


A good example of how the Church's tradition is a living journey: although my husband was raised Catholic during his upbringing he never experienced the Great Vigil of Easter as it has been restored in our day.

From a letter written to my Diocesan newspaper:

Because a family member was received into the Catholic faith this past Holy Week, I attended the Holy Thursday evening Mass and the Easter Vigil Mass for the first time. I have to say I was awed, they were so beautiful. When I was growing up (I'm 69 years old now) we never heard about them. Maybe we never even had them in our parish. Are they something new? When did they start?

Portions of the reply (too long to print in its entirety):

I'm happy you discovered these Holy Week liturgies. They are among the greatest treasures of our Catholic faith.

Far from new, the sacred Triduum ceremonies are ancient. Apart from Sundays, the first feast celebrated by Christians was Easter. After a long night vigil of Scripture readings and prayers which extended into early Sunday morning the Easter Eucharist was celebrated. During it, new Christians, adults and children, were baptized and confirmed and received the Eucharist for the first time.

Centuries later the Easter Vigil and other related ceremonies had changed dramatically. By the 10th century, for example, most adults in what became known as Christian Europe were already baptized. Thus, generally baptisms were celebrated only for infant. In addition, beginning long before the lifetime of anyone today, no celebration of Mass was permitted after noon, even for the Easter Vigil. Holy Thursday Masses were celebrated in the morning, perhaps followed by some hours of veneration before the Blessed Sacrament.

A few people would drift in for the Mass which followed, and everything was finished by 8:30 in the morning. That was the "Easter Vigil" in those days, and for centuries before.

. . .

Only in 1955 did the church return these liturgies to their former dignity and solemnity. We have Pope Pius XII to thank for the revival of the Easter Triduum liturgies we enjoy in the Church today. He deserves credit for the liturgical renewal which received its greatest impulse in the Second Vatican Council a few years after he died. His historic 1947 encyclical "Mater Dei" and his restoration of the Easter liturgies helped set the tone for what was to come.


A great example of the Living Tradition of the Church.

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 5:01:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

Yes, and they've been restored also to Lutheran parishes - recognized as a valued and beautiful part of our common heritage as Western Catholic Christians.

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 5:50:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

Yes, and they've been restored also to Lutheran parishes - recognized as a valued and beautiful part of our common heritage as Western Catholic Christians.

Careful, Pastor Weedon or you'll have PE calling you a Vatican II wannabe :) (sorry, I couldn't resist -- I really do truly value the discussions we all have here, and I would miss PE -- I don't know of anyone, I say ANYONE else whom God has blessed ten times sideways !! Unmoeglich !!

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 10:32:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

I must say though, that when you talk about "restoration" of these ancient liturgical practices in the Catholic Church (same goes for the rite of anointing), we are not talking about something that was in the Lutheran tradition but abandoned over time, we are talking about something that the Lutheran tradition actually REJECTED, but, through the catholicising influence of the liturgical movement, have restored. I speak whereof I know. I was a part of all this. I myself drew up the drafts for the rites and liturgies for the Lutheran Church of Australia's Triduum orders and rite of anointing (et aliter). I had absolutely (or virtually) no Lutheran sources to go on (except, in the case of anointing, an account of an anointing carried out by Loehe). My sources (as in fact was Loehe's in the case of the anointing) were all Catholic (except the Lutheran book of Worship, whose source was also Catholic). Now it is fair enough to say that the Lutheran Church is a valid heir to the ancient Catholic Tradition, absolutely, couldn't agree more. We're not being selfish here. But what I am saying is that there is a little bit of "Tract 95'ing" going on within liturgical evangelical-catholic Lutheranism (which is very good to see--don't get me wrong) which does not really owe its impetus to classical 16th and 17th Lutheranism.

Which brings me to my concern: How do you determine what a valid Tradition is? PE and Pastor Bill say: on the basis of Scripture. But much of Tradition is about how we interpret scripture, so which tradition re the interpretation of scripture are you going to take as scriptural?

In fact, we both approach things in absolutely diametrically opposite ways. I listen to the Church, guided and reflecting upon what it has recognised as authentic apostolic Tradition, to interpret the Scriptures. You listen to the Scriptures, in order to ascertain what is authentic tradition, so that you can judge the Church.

I want to stress that I do receive the Scriptures as Word of God and that I do listen to them for the experience of that immediate "cor ad cor loquitur" experience of the Spirit in my heart that comes through this listening--what you refer to when you say "the words that cut to the heart and the words that bring joy and healing".

But when it comes to determining the public faith and order of the Church, then something other than this existentialist individualist reading is required. There must be some public and communal agreement on what the Word of God requires for the whole Church.

In this situation, I am required to receive the Scriptures in Community. This is what it is to read Scripture in the Context of the Sacred Tradition guided by the Magisterium of the Church.

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 1:47:00 pm , Blogger William Weedon said...

You *assume* that the voice of the Church you currently are a member of is the voice of the Church. We advocate listening to the voice of the Church throughout time, also when not in favor with whoever is sitting on the seat of St. John Lateran at the moment, and to weigh this voice with the voice of God speaking through the Sacred Scriptures.

The Lutheran Church is a community of faith, as also the Roman Church is. The difference between the two communities has to do, above all, with their approach to the Sacred Scriptures and whether these Scriptures are sufficient for the establishment of the Church's dogma and to govern her practice.

About the anointing, you must not have studied the Swedish tradition - for the 1529 Church Manual of Olavus Petri also retained the anointing (of the extremities) with prayer for healing. It's clearly there.

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 1:48:00 pm , Blogger William Weedon said...

The Magdeburg Book also shows how the Lutherans of the 17th century observed Triduum.

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 4:00:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Good Christine, PW a Vatican II wannabe? No way. It's enough to make you fall down the stairs.

More likely he and I both would be called Romanists, crypto-Papists, or some such thing, when not being called maintenance rather than missional minded by the other side!

Well, Herr Schuetz, how about that tradition which says that real Christianity was effectively done in at Nicaea by an imperially summoned and led council of false teachers imposing a non-Christian emperor's views on the church?

Did you not yourself say that the "early church" era borders on unrecoverability?

And what about that consensus of the early church, even when using here the Palestinian and there the Greek canon of the Hebrew Bible, that while there are many specifically Christian writings which can be read with profit, here are the ones upon which you can rely?

What is sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone (ablative absolute, ablative of means really for jumping Judas Priest's sake), but a call for the church to be faithful to her own book, to rely on that upon which she said we can rely?

Lutheranism continues to endure its Karlstadts and Zwickau prophets. (Ya wonder if anyone said Hey lighten up Marty, 8th Commandment you know.) Pastor points out this was not the rule not universal. Nor is it an objection that the sources are "Catholic". Didn't bother my colleague from Wittenberg in the least.

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 4:15:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

PS -- more Bug Man! Blow me out the door and sweep me up if I don't remember the older people grousing about all this new crap in Holy Week in the 1950s! What's an altar boy to do? Little did they know what the Bug Man would go on to do, this Hannibal Lector of the Liturgy. Now you have Bug Man 1962 in the EF and Bug Man 1970 in the OF, blessed be the Bug Man.

 
At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 11:59:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

The Magdeburg Book also shows how the Lutherans of the 17th century observed Triduum.

Not surprising. There was still a strongly catholic element present in Lutheran worship at the time. How could it not be? Luther's Augustinian spirituality was formed by the Church of Rome.

Alas, it fell by the wayside. Under the influence of the Prussian Union my mother's Lutheran congregation did not celebrate the Triduum and certainly no Lutheran congregation I was ever a part of did before the liturgical movement really took hold. And I have to agree with David, that was a result of the catholicizing influence of the Catholic Church.

We've all benefited by returning to the sources.

More likely he and I both would be called Romanists, crypto-Papists, or some such thing, when not being called maintenance rather than missional minded by the other side!

Ain't it a sorry situation when you're being accosted on two fronts?

Well, Herr Schuetz, how about that tradition which says that real Christianity was effectively done in at Nicaea by an imperially summoned and led council of false teachers imposing a non-Christian emperor's views on the church?

Ah yes, Nicea. The list of men who attended the Council of Nicea were missing limbs, blinded, and scarred because these were the same people that had suffered for their faith in the Roman arena. They witnessed to Christ with their very bodies.

I've always liked Father Luther's paradigm of the Bible as the "cradle of Christ" which it surely is. But for Catholics our assurance is in an infallible Person, the Eternal Word, not in a book, albeit an inspired one The Bible is a product of the Church, supporting the already-existing Tradition of the early centuries.

That, basically, is the divergence.

Blow me out the door and sweep me up if I don't remember the older people grousing about all this new crap in Holy Week in the 1950s!

Grouse away, my friend but the Easter Vigils I have attended have always been packed. The people love the Easter Vigil.

 
At Wednesday, May 21, 2008 10:42:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

"The Lutheran Church is a community of faith, as also the Roman Church is. The difference between the two communities has to do, above all, with their approach to the Sacred Scriptures and whether these Scriptures are sufficient for the establishment of the Church's dogma and to govern her practice."

Oh, the differences are far deeper than that, Pastor Weedon. But you may wish to believe it is so.

 

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