To continue, with reference to the Antiochian Archdiocese, and their Mother Church, the Patriarchate of Antioch. The Patriarchate of Antioch has, by a very long way, completely outdone any of the other Orthodox Churches in the ecumenical arena. See the follwoing letter:A Synodal and Patriarchal Letter.
"To All Our Children, Protected by God, of the Holy See of Antioch:
You must have heard of the continuous efforts for decades by our Church with the sister Syrian Orthodox Church to foster a better knowledge and understanding of both Churches, whether on the dogmatic or pastoral level. These attempts are nothing but a natural expression that the Orthodox Churches, and especially those within the Holy See of Antioch, are called to articulate the will of the Lord that all may be obey, just as the Son is One with the Heavenly Father (John 10:30).
It is our duty and that of our brothers in the Syrian Orthodox Church to witness to Christ in our Eastern region where He was born, preached, suffered, was buried and rose from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sent down His Holy and Life Giving Spirit upon His holy Apostles.
All the meetings, the fellowship, the oral and written declarations meant that we belong to One Faith even though history had manifested our division more than the aspects of our unity.
All this has called upon our Holy Synod of Antioch to bear witness to the progress of our Church in the See of Antioch towards unity that preserves for each Church its authentic Oriental heritage whereby the one Antiochian Church benefits from its sister Church and is enriched in its traditions, literature and holy rituals.
Every endeavor and pursuit in the direction of the coming together of the two Churches is based on the conviction that this orientation is from the Holy Spirit, and it will give the Eastern Orthodox image more light and radiance, that it has lacked for centuries before.
Having recognized the efforts done in the direction of unity between the two Churches, and being convinced that this direction was inspired by the Holy Spirit and projects a radiant image of Eastern Christianity overshadowed during centuries, the Holy Synod of the Church of Antioch saw the need to give a concrete expression of the close fellowship between the two Churches, the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Eastern Orthodox for the edification of their faithful.
Thus, the following decisions were taken:
We affirm the total and mutual respect of the spirituality, heritage and Holy Fathers of both Churches. The integrity of both the Byzantine and Syriac liturgies is to be preserved.
The heritage of the Fathers in both Churches and their traditions as a whole should be integrated into Christian education curricula and theological studies. Exchanges of professors and students are to be enhanced.
Both Churches shall refrain from accepting any faithful from accepting any faithful from one Church into the membership of the other, irrespective of all motivations or reasons.
Meetings between the two Churches, at the level of their Synods, according to the will of the two Churches, will be held whenever the need arises.
Every Church will remain the reference and authority for its faithful, pertaining to matters of personal status (marriage, divorce, adoption, etc.).
If bishops of the two Churches participate at a holy baptism or funeral service, the one belonging to the Church of the baptized or deceased will preside. In case of a holy matrimony service, the bishop of the bridegroom's Church will preside.
The above mentioned is not applicable to the concelebration in the Divine Liturgy.
What applies to bishops equally applies to the priests of both Churches.
In localities where there is only one priest, from either Church, he will celebrate services for the faithful of both Churches, including the Divine Liturgy, pastoral duties, and holy matrimony. He will keep an independent record for each Church and transmit that of the sister Church to its authorities.
If two priests of the two Churches happen to be in a locality where there is only one Church, they take turns in making use of its facilities.
If a bishop from one Church and a priest from the sister Church happen to concelebrate a service, the first will preside even when it is the priest's parish.
Ordinations into the holy orders are performed by the authorities of each Church for its own members. It would be advisable to invite the faithful of the sister Church to attend.
Godfathers, godmothers (in baptism) and witnesses in holy matrimony can be chosen from the members of the sister Church.
Both Churches will exchange visits and will co-operate in the various areas of social, cultural and educational work.
We ask God's help to continue strengthening our relations with the sister Church, and with other Churches, so that we all become one community under one Shepherd.
12 November 1991
Patriarch Ignatios IV
of the Greek Antiochian Church
Patriarch Ignatius Zakka Iwas
of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch"
From this Patriarchal Letter, it is more than obvious that the Greek Antiochian Church (Eastern Orthodox, Mother Church of the Antiochian Archdiocese) and the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch (Oriental Orthodox) concelebrate with each other, recognize each others "Holy Fathers," and undoubtedly, there is intercommunion. If not, wy concelebrate?
Now, the first problem here is that the Orthodox Church considers that the various Oriental Orthodox churches are heretical, via the Council of Chalcedon: "This is the origin of Oriental Orthodoxy as a distinct communion, which still today rejects the results of this council." see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Chalcedon
As if this were not enough, the Syrian Orthodox Church (Oriental Orthodox) has been negotiating with Rome for decades:
" The “Catholic–Syrian Orthodox [Monophysite] Statement” was
signed on July 23, 1984, by Pope John–Paul II and Patriarch Moran
Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas of Antioch. This statement declared that
the Roman pontiff and the Monophysite patriarch
…kneel down with full humility in front of the exalted and extolled heavenly
throne of our Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks for this glorious opportunity
which has been granted us to meet together in His love in order
to strengthen further the relationship between our two sister
churches—the relationship already excellent through the joint initiative
of their holinesses of blessed memory, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Moran
Mar Ignatius Jacoub III…. Their holinesses Pope John– Paul II and
Patriarch Zakka I wish solemnly to widen the horizon of their brotherhood
and affirm herewith the terms of deep spiritual communion which
already unites them and the prelates, clergy, and faithful of both their
Churches…, and to advance in finding a wholly common ecclesial
life…. The confusions and schisms that arose between our churches…
arose only because of differences in terminology and culture…. We
find no real basis for the sad divisions and schisms that subsequently
arose between us…, notwithstanding the differences on interpretation
of such a doctrine which arose at the Council of Chalcedon [does this all
sound familiar?]…. Hence we wish to reaffirm our common profession
of faith…, as Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Moran Mar Ignatius Jacoub III
did in 1971. They denied that there was any difference in the faith that
they confessed…. Our identity in faith, though not yet complete, entitles
us to envisage collaboration between our churches in pastoral care…. It
is not rare, in fact, for our faithful to find access to a priest of their own
church materially or morally impossible. Anxious to meet their need
and with their spiritual benefit in mind, we authorize them in such cases
to ask for the sacraments of penance, the eucharist, and the anointing
of the sick from lawful priests of either of our two sister churches…. It
would be a logical corollary of collaboration in pastoral care to
coöperate in priestly formation and theological education…. [W]hile doing
this we do not forget that we must still do all in our power to
achieve the full visible communion between the Catholic Church and
the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch…, thanking the Lord Who has
allowed us to meet and enjoy the consolation of the faith that we hold in
see: Union with the Monophysites: What Comes Next?, at: http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/ea_mono.aspx
So, we have some problems here, large problems. According to the Holy Canons of the Orthodox Church, those (read: clergy, especially Bishops) who "pray with heretics" place themselves OUTSIDE THE ORTHODOX CHURCH. This Canon is not very ambiguous-Patirarchs, Metropolitans, Archbishops, Bishops and clergy who engage in "prayer with heretics" are to be deposed. And, as I have been taught, these Canons are not like the Perry Mason show-that is, a long and interesting trial is not the "conclusion" of violatioons-the "penalties" are "auotmatic." Whenever Orthodox Life would publish decisions of the Synod of Bishops, when going into matters of clergy who had been defrocked, there would be a statement that such and such clergyman had violated such and such a Canon or Canons, and therefore, "incurred upn himself . . . " the penalty stated by the Canon.
Now, the partisans of ecumenism in the Orthodox Church who HAVE prayed with heretics at various WCC functions and elsewhere ALWAYS have the excuse that "the Canon does not mean simple prayer, it means Liturgical Prayer, when the clergy are vested, such as the Liturgy, Vespers, etc., etc., ..." An example of such is the statement of Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Vienna and Austria (Moscow Patriarchate) in an interview on the website of ROCOR: "Also , when canon law speaks of the inadmissibility of prayer with heretics , it refers , in my opinion, to prayer of a liturgical character, not to "common" prayer. When you invite a non-orthodox Christian to your home, could you not together with him, read the Lord's Prayer before the meal? Or at inter-Christian conferences—could we not, before a meeting begins, read "O Heavenly King?" Or, as an Orthodox Christian, when entering a non-orthodox temple, even during a service, could you not raise a prayer to God? One can pray in the forest, one can pray in a bus (filled, maybe, with atheists or those of other religions), but one cannot pray in a Christian church, even if it is not Orthodox?" see: http://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws/synod/engdocuments/enart_interviewrocor.html
Of course, again, it is quite obvious that the arrangement between the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and the Oriental Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch go a bit farther than praying "in the forest," or, "in a bus." It is full fledged Liturgucal Prayer-concelebration. And, the Oriental Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch's various agreements with Rome only further complicate matters. The fact that Syrian (Oriental) Orthodox and Roman Catholic priests can confess, "anoint," and commune each others flocks is only a bit short of concelebration. Which puts the Eastern Orthodox Patirarchate of Antioch in "closer proximity" to Rome than even Costantinople!
All of which, I must say, fits my definition of "icky," especially in the context of an American Orthodox Church. Why should a newly formed American Orthodox Church have to contend with such issues, and this from one of its largest supposed "components." Seeing that the Orthodox Churches that are in the majority in North America at this time are the more liberal, the more anti-traditional, the "components" of an American Orthodox Church would surely make itself in "their own image."
While the Moscow Patriarchate is in such a total majority in Russia, it still feels paranoid enough about tiny Traditionalist Churches that it feels compelled to appeal to the government for help in exterminating these "threats" (!?!) to the MP! I can foresee, in a climate that breeds an American Orthodox Church comprised of the various liberal and modernist Orthodox entities that would engender persecution of Traditionalist Orthodox here. No, not "persecution" as in Russia, where priests are arrested, churches are taken, etc., etc., but only more of the persecution that already takes place: ridicule, marginalization, and the more or less ignorant flinging around of the "C" word- "Canonical." (That is, that it has some meaning of "official," "authorized," etc., etc., only as opposing those who are "not.")
Interestingly enough, the liberal and modernist Orthodox Churches NEVER make reference to any of the Holy Canons that have to do with matter sof the Orthodox Faith, or the relations (or non-relations) of the Orthodox Church with heretical entities; they do, however, refer time and again to those Canons that enforce the authority of the Bishop (even though the Canons DO make allowance for leaving one's Bishop if that Bishop "teaches heresy bareheaded," or is involved with "prayer with heretics"). In other words, it seems their largest worry is that their AUTHORITY not be lessened one iota. The Traditional Churches, however, are concerned almost solely with Canons having to do with matters of the Orthodox Faith, and the violation, watering down, weakening, and apostasy from that Faith.
Also, an American Orthodox Church would, sooner or later, be comprised mainly of converts. I have read some things about the "psychology" of converts, and found very interesting the thought that converts find it extremely difficult, if not downright impossible, to TOTALLY accept their adopted faith. "Totally" mostly referring to those parts or practices of that faith that are seemingly extremely "odd" to ones contemporaries, or "out of place" in todays world, or those things that others would refer to as "superstition," etc., etc.,-mainly this was interesting to me as it seems to draw the "battle lines" between the "liberal. modernist" and "Traditionalist" Orthodox. And, this is a battle that does not need to be fought by a newly born American Orthodox Church.
Hopefully I have explained my thoughts clearly, and without insulting anyone too much; in today's world, I realize, one cannot SPEAK AT ALL without insulting someone. I think that many people are simply too thin skinned, and for some reason feel that they should NEVER have to hear anything that is in disagreement with what they think of believe or think they believe! I myself am not and have never been very thin skinned-and I have endured the insults, believe me-some of the more liberal and modernist of the Orthodox in America have seemingly made "careers" out of insulting ROCOR and its faithful. It does not really bother me all that much, because, for the most part, they did not have much of an idea as to what they were talking about. And, before anyone accuses me of terribly insulting the Antiochian Patriarchate, I would first recommend that you read the applicable Canons, and also realize that Orthodox Patriarchs, Metropolitans, Archbishops, Bishops, and parish priests are not infallible, their word is not "LAW,", and they have absolutely NO AUTHORITY whatsoever to change one iota of the Orthodox Faith, nor the Canons. This also includes those who feel certain aspects of the faith are "outdated," or that some of the Canons are "no longer applicable," or "embarrasing," etc., etc., etc. In other words, they are NOT Popes!
I ask all of you to pray for me, a sinner, and hope that you all can work your salvation in peace!