Brethren: May Jesus Christ be praised!Recently, a reader of this blog asked me how I conceived the organization of a reunited Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church. He also proceeded in his comment to describe his own vision, which I appreciated.
As many of you know, I’ve been thinking about this issue for a while now, including “the look” and “feel” of reunited Church, but concluded that any such “blueprints” are illusory, and only present my very personal feelings on the subject.
Sadly, despite our many agreements, similarities, and convergences, as well as the limited unity we share in the mutual recognition of our sacraments – or at least, the Roman Catholic recognition of Orthodox sacraments, and the concomitant recognition by a significant number of Orthodox churches of our sacraments – the fact is that our ecclesial self-understandings are mutually exclusive.
We Catholic Christians accept the dogmatic definition of the Petrine Ministry as one of universal jurisdiction over every particular church and individual Catholic Christian; the Orthodox Churches do not. Furthermore, we Catholics confess our Church as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church proclaimed in the Creed to the exclusion of others, albeit in degrees, whereas the Orthodox churches claim the same for themselves with a wider sense of the exclusion of other claimants, including us. The disagreement on our ecclesiological self-understanding is so great, that as things stand now and for the foreseeable future, the ultimate solution of our schism lies in the capitulation of one side to the other’s ecclesiology, even if and when every other difference is reconciled by means of mutual, inclusive theological language.
As a Catholic Christian, I feel and think that this capitulation to the Orthodox view of the Church is impossible, and I know that many Orthodox Christians, otherwise well-disposed toward the Catholic Church, think the same way. Therefore, out of respect for the Orthodox stance and for my own, I have no “blueprint” for the organizational reunification of the Churches.
Other than keep trying to understand each other through dialogue and good works, what else can we do?
As Catholic and Orthodox Christians, we understand that the “end times” commenced with the first advent of the Messiah Jesus, and that this period of preparation, watching, and waiting will come to an end with the Parusia or final manifestation of Jesus the last day, where He will come again “to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.” We also know that things will grow progressively worse in a world which even now is fast becoming inhospitable, not only to observant Catholic and Orthodox Christians, but also to other professed Christians who confess the name of Jesus and follow Him as the Son of God, True God and True Man, “born of the Father before all ages” and have received His Spirit and the graces God gives in the one baptism we confess, “for the remission of sins.”
It is to this “special period” in which persecution will increase and when confessing Christians in our Churches and in other ecclesial communities where I place our reconciliation. During this period, I foresee that given the need to help, support, and minister to each other, the Spirit will lead us to an “armistice” in which both Catholic and Orthodox Christians will reach a de facto sacramental and liturgical communion, and that the need to minister and confirm each other will take precedence from formal talks at reunion. In other words, increased persecution, along with a new consciousness of the presence of the Holy Spirit among us, will accomplish what hundreds of years of – often harsh – dialogue have not accomplished.
In my personal opinion and private judgment as a “t”heologian, I foresee a time of “regathering” parallel to, and perhaps coextensive with, the regathering of Israel from the nations. This “last Pentecost” will result in the healing of the Body of Christ just at the moment the world, the flesh, and the devil would have declared the Body’s death. We will be given to understand with the same understanding we had in the beginning the sense of who we are and are we called to be, and how are we to serve each other in our proper priestly, ministerial, and lay roles in a hierarchical Church. The visible regathering of the Body of Christ will thus commence on this earth but will culminate in the New Jerusalem, under a new heaven and a new earth.
Yes! Come Lord Jesus!
What do you think?