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Author Topic: What is Oikonomia?  (Read 2970 times) Average Rating: 0
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Jimmy
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« on: July 07, 2008, 09:07:54 PM »

Can anyone explain to me the concept of oikonomia?  I have seen it referenced when speaking about second marriages and about contraception and other things.  My current interpretation of it is that God loves you as you are so He calls you to the faith but He allows certain things with the prospect of leading you to the perfect way.
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« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2008, 09:24:52 PM »

"Oikonomia" literally means "the law of the house".
When we speak of the "Divine Oikonomia", we are referring to the "Divine Dispensation"- that is, the way God "runs His house" according to His Infinite Mercy. Think of it as a Infinitely Merciful Head of the House. The Incarnation, by which God suspended the Laws of Nature and condescended to become Human is an example of the Divine Oikonomia.
The Church also practices Oikonomia. Sometimes, people's salvation is achieved by a less strict/exact (akrebia) application of the Canons of the Church. An example of this is the reception into the Church of those who received heterodox baptism by Chrisimation alone. Technically, that is, if we followed the "exact" (akrebia) Ecclessiological "laws", we should Baptise them since they have not received Baptism into the Church, however, the Church, in some cases, applies Oikonomia and relaxes this "rule" so that people can be received into the Church by Chrisimation alone which completes what is lacking in their previous Baptism.
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« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2008, 09:47:48 PM »

"Oikonomia" literally means "the law of the house".
When we speak of the "Divine Oikonomia", we are referring to the "Divine Dispensation"- that is, the way God "runs His house" according to His Infinite Mercy. Think of it as a Infinitely Merciful Head of the House. The Incarnation, by which God suspended the Laws of Nature and condescended to become Human is an example of the Divine Oikonomia.
The Church also practices Oikonomia. Sometimes, people's salvation is achieved by a less strict/exact (akrebia) application of the Canons of the Church. An example of this is the reception into the Church of those who received heterodox baptism by Chrisimation alone. Technically, that is, if we followed the "exact" (akrebia) Ecclessiological "laws", we should Baptise them since they have not received Baptism into the Church, however, the Church, in some cases, applies Oikonomia and relaxes this "rule" so that people can be received into the Church by Chrisimation alone which completes what is lacking in their previous Baptism.

Can this concept be applied to moral issues like contraception and second marriages and war?  Rather than a just war theory like in the west, the concept of oikonomia would apply?  Although war or contraception might be considered wrong a 'less strict/exact' emphasis might be placed on it.
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« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2008, 10:41:16 PM »

Can this concept be applied to moral issues like contraception and second marriages and war?
As to the issues of contraception and second marriages, you should find just by reading some of the threads on these subjects that the Church has applied some level of oikonomia, recognizing that contraception and remarriage after divorce are certainly missing the mark of how we as Christians are to regard marriage and procreation but that some concession to human weakness may be necessary for the salvation of some.
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« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2008, 11:23:05 PM »

Can this concept be applied to moral issues like contraception and second marriages and war?  Rather than a just war theory like in the west, the concept of oikonomia would apply?  Although war or contraception might be considered wrong a 'less strict/exact' emphasis might be placed on it.

Not really. Contraception and war are both considered evils, it's just that the Church accepts that sometimes they are the choice of a lesser evil.
Oikonomia is not a choice for something evil, but something Good. It is not an evil "bending of the rules". By example, the Incarnation was not a "evil" suspension of the Laws of Nature- God did not use an evil to achieve a Good. Orthodoxy holds that nothing Good can ever be achieved through evil means.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2008, 11:25:53 PM by ozgeorge » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2008, 11:34:04 PM »

ozgeorge, What is it that advises that the Orthodox Church considers contraception an "evil?"  I've never run into this position anywhere.  I recall that Fr. Stanley Harakas had written that the Church hadn't taken a position on contraception, if I'm not mistaken.
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« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2008, 12:24:18 AM »

ozgeorge, What is it that advises that the Orthodox Church considers contraception an "evil?"  I've never run into this position anywhere.  I recall that Fr. Stanley Harakas had written that the Church hadn't taken a position on contraception, if I'm not mistaken.

Contraception runs counter to the "Be Fruitful and Multiply" blessing God gave Adam & Eve.
Contraception also runs counter to the prayers recited during the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony where the Bride is blessed like the Holy Matriarchs Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel before her.

Some couples aren't ready to have children or do not wish to have children; hence, they use contraception hopefully with the Blessing of the couple's Spiritual Father.
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« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2008, 12:46:02 AM »

Not really. Contraception and war are both considered evils, it's just that the Church accepts that sometimes they are the choice of a lesser evil.
Oikonomia is not a choice for something evil, but something Good. It is not an evil "bending of the rules". By example, the Incarnation was not a "evil" suspension of the Laws of Nature- God did not use an evil to achieve a Good. Orthodoxy holds that nothing Good can ever be achieved through evil means.

I wasn't saying that good can be achieved through evil.  What I was saying was that the evil might be overlooked in a sense -rather than turning them away from the Church - in order to draw them closer and eventually they will come to a full realization of the faith.  I am not even saying it would be choosing a lesser of two evils.  What I am asking is whether it would be like leading someone kind of through steps of virtue?  You understand the persons situation in life and you work with them from there.  The allowance of a second marriage is an act of mercy kind of.
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« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2008, 01:01:07 AM »

I wasn't saying that good can be achieved through evil.  What I was saying was that the evil might be overlooked in a sense -rather than turning them away from the Church - in order to draw them closer and eventually they will come to a full realization of the faith.  I am not even saying it would be choosing a lesser of two evils.  What I am asking is whether it would be like leading someone kind of through steps of virtue?  You understand the persons situation in life and you work with them from there.  The allowance of a second marriage is an act of mercy kind of.
I think you hit pretty close to the mark here.
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ozgeorge
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« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2008, 09:37:47 PM »

I wasn't saying that good can be achieved through evil.  What I was saying was that the evil might be overlooked in a sense -rather than turning them away from the Church - in order to draw them closer and eventually they will come to a full realization of the faith.  I am not even saying it would be choosing a lesser of two evils.  What I am asking is whether it would be like leading someone kind of through steps of virtue?  You understand the persons situation in life and you work with them from there.  The allowance of a second marriage is an act of mercy kind of.

I still have a problem with the idea that Oikonomia is an "overlooking of evil". For example, second marriages are certainly not an "overlooking of evil" since the penitential marriage rite is used, and there is no crowning. It is an acknowledgement of a failure rather than an overlooking of it.
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« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2008, 05:27:15 AM »

However, if a person who has been divorced marries someone who has never been married, then the marriage service is that for a first marriage, for the sake of the person who is marring for the first time. This is a typical case of economia. There are also many instances where people who were widowed at a young age, where there was no impediment at all for remarriage, and, in most of these cases, the full first wedding service was used. In fact, in many Orthodox cultures, a man marrying a young widow with children, or a woman marrying a young widower with children was regarded as a great blessing (I think the Greek word for it is psychiko), and such folks were held in the highest regard, as they were re-establishing a "complete" family.
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« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2008, 03:52:28 PM »

In pastoral situations, oikonomia allows an exception to the exact letter of the law that (a) PRESERVES the principles and spirit of the law, (b) is rightfully granted by the proper ecclesiastical authority, and (c) is marked not by urgency or laxity, but by compassion and a conscientious desire to see the best possible spiritual outcome, given the realities of the pastoral situation.

That covers most of the bases, although no one can say it as well as Dr. Lewis Patsavos in his book "Spiritual Dimension of the Holy Canons":

Quote
Unlike secular law or Mosaic law, the purpose of the Church's law is the spiritual perfection of her members. Mere application of the letter of the law is replaced by a sense for the spirit of the law, and adherence to its principles. This purpose is the determining factor when authority is granted to apply the law when circumstances warrant according to each individual case. The spirit of love, understood as commitment to the spiritual perfection of the individual, must always prevail in the application of the law. The abolition of the letter of the law by the spirit of the law has led to the institution of "economy," exercised in non-essential matters. Through "economy," which is always an exception to the general rule, the legal consequences following the violation of a law are lifted.
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