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Author Topic: Letter from Italian Orthodox convert  (Read 2239 times) Average Rating: 0
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Byzantino
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« on: November 21, 2003, 10:35:24 PM »

Maybe you've already seen this letter; it really hit home for me because i was facing the same dilemmas as the author not long ago as an Eastern-rite RC.


I would like to share with you a brief letter that was published some time ago in an Italian Orthodox parish newsletter. Its author, Archpriest Gregorio Cognetti, is the Dean of the Italian parishes under the Moscow Patriarchate.

This letter was generally liked by the Italian Orthodox converts, and also received a high degree of appreciation among some cradle-born Orthodox (it was, for instance, translated into Rumanian); I hope it may prove interesting reading and a source of inspiration for all of you.

 

Chapel Hill (U.S.), March 1982

Dear Bill,

Even though you never asked it directly, I feel from your words that you do not yet understand why I left the Roman Church to become Orthodox. "You were even a member of one of the least latinised Byzantine parishes," you seem to say, "why, then?..." I guess I owe you an explanation, since, a long time ago, when we were both members of the Latin church, we shared the same feelings. These same feelings brought both of us to a Byzantine Rite parish, and then myself to Orthodoxy. You could not have forgotten the criticisms that we moved to the Romans: the continual insertion of new "traditions" in place of the old ones, Scholasticism, the legalistic approach to spiritual life, the dogma of papal infallibility. At the same time we both reckoned the legitimacy and correctness of the Orthodox Church. A Uniate parish seemed the optimal solution. I remember what I was saying in that period, "I think like an Orthodox, I believe like an Orthodox, therefore I am Orthodox." Entering officially into the Orthodox Church seemed to me just a useless formality. I even thought that remaining in communion with the Roman Church might be a positive fact, in view of the goal of a possible reunification of the Churches.

Well, Bill, I was wrong. I believed I knew the Orthodox Faith, but it was just a smattering, and quite shallow for that. Otherwise I would not have failed to know the intrinsic contradiction between feeling Orthodox and not being reckoned as such by the very same Church whose faith I stated I was sharing. Only a non-Orthodox may conceive an absurdity like being Orthodox outside of Orthodoxy. Individual salvation does not only concern the single person, as many Westerners believe, but it must be seen in the wider frame of the Church Communion. Each Orthodox Christian is like a leaf: how could he receive the life-giving sap if he is not connected to the vine? (John 15:5). Orthodoxy is a way of life, not a rite. The beauty of the rite derives from the inner reality of the Orthodox Faith, and not from a search for forms. The Divine Liturgy is not a more picturesque way of saying Mass: it comes forth from, and strengthens, a theological reality that becomes void and inconsistent if excised from Orthodoxy. When the spirit of the Orthodox Faith is present, even the most miserable service, done in a shack, with two paper icons placed on a couple of chairs to serve as the iconostasis, and a bunch of faithful out of tune as the choir, is incomparably higher than the services in my former Uniate parish, in the midst of magnificent 12th century Byzantine mosaics, and a well-instructed choir (when there was one). The almost paranoid observance of the ritual forms is the useless attempt to make up for the lack of a true Orthodox ethos. I was deluding myself when I believed I was able to be an Orthodox in the Roman communion. It was a delusion because it is impossible. The continual interference of Rome in the ecclesiastical life reminds you in due course who is in command. To pretend to ignore this is self-delusion. I tried to avoid the problem, feigning to be deaf and dumb, and repeating to myself that I belonged to the ideal "undivided Church." My position was quite sinful. First of all, because the undivided Church still exists: it is the Church that never broke with Her past, and that is always identical to Herself: in other words, the Orthodox Church. Then, because that feeling of being a member of the "Undivided Church," which I considered so Christian and irenical, was instead a grave sin of pride. I was practically putting myself above Patriarchs and Popes. I believed I was one of the few who really understood the "Truth," beyond "old sterile polemics." I felt I had the right to ask the Eucharist both from the Romans and the Orthodox, and I felt unfairly treated when the latter denied it to me. I have a great debt of gratitude towards a priest who, in that time, refused to give me Communion. Instead of softly speaking of "canonical impediments," as if the matter were merely a bureaucratic problem, he said to me barefacedly, "If it is true that you consider yourself an Orthodox, why is it that you keep belonging to heresy?" I was deeply shocked by those words, and for a long time I did not return to that Church. But he was right. I had "understood" what Saints, Fathers, Bishops and Priests had not understood for centuries. According to me, the schism between East and West was a tragic "misunderstanding" based on political problems and the ponderings of the theologians. And in doing so I indirectly accused many holy people of calculation, superficiality and bigotry. And I was mistaking all of this for Christian charity...

No, Bill, it is impossible to be both Roman Catholic and Orthodox at the same time. The rite is not all that important. After all, the Latins were Western Rite Orthodox for many centuries. I agree with you that, after the separation, the Romans and the Orthodox have still much in common, but this is not enough to consider both of them part of the same Church. Beyond the well known doctrinal differences, there is the approach to the Supernatural, the same life of the Church that makes impossible to live the two religious realities at the same time. We state in the Creed: "and (I believe) in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church." Until a unity of faith comes, they will be two churches. The theory (also affirmed by John Paul II) that the Romans and the Orthodox are still the same one Church (despite the schism, and in a mysterious way) sounds well, but it doesn't hold. It is based only on beautiful words. The differences of faith, on the other hand, do exist, and they are not a mere wordplay. Yes, I know that "theological dialogue" has been started, and it is even possible (everything is possible to the Lord) that eventually the unity will be reached. But beware! Many good Romans believe that the differences might be resolved by means of a clever statement that, owing to its genericness may sound acceptable by both parties. Having reached an agreement on this statement, both would interpret it according to their understanding, in fact keeping their opinions. Worse still, some propose a unity in diversity, without a formal commitment of faith from any part, but under the universal coordination of the Pope of Rome. Well, all of this is impossible. The Fathers taught us that the agreement on common faith must be univocal and unequivocal. Orthodoxy follows the spirit of the Law, rather than the letter. And since it is impossible for the Orthodox Church to introduce new doctrines, it falls on the Romans to abandon a millennium of innovations, and unreservedly return to the faith of the Catholic and Apostolic Church. This is the only possible platform for agreement. History has shown the fallacy of otherwise based unions. And now let me ask you a trivial question: Bill, is the Pope infallible ("on his own and not by virtue of Church consensus," as specified in the 1870 dogma) or not? He may not be fallible and infallible at the same time, as it would happen if the two churches were still part of the same Church. One of the two must be wrong. "But Vatican II allowed a great freedom of opinions..." you may answer. Yet this is a sophism. The true Church may not fall in error. If you believe that your Church erred, or that She is actually erring, you deny that She is the true Church.

I embrace you with unchanged friendship and love in Christ.

Gregorio.

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« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2003, 10:48:59 PM »

Byzantino,

I have never read this before and find it  interesting  enough for me to retain and think on.

james
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« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2003, 02:29:21 AM »

Double wow! Even to a 'cradle' Big O. At first I thought, "Is this genuine?" I copied it to give to my priest should he need inspiration for a sermon.
Thanks,
Demetri
« Last Edit: November 22, 2003, 02:29:52 AM by +æ-ü+¦-â-ä+++¦+++«-é » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2003, 02:09:39 PM »

[Only a non-Orthodox may conceive an absurdity like being Orthodox outside of Orthodoxy.]

[Each Orthodox Christian is like a leaf: how could he receive the life-giving sap if he is not connected to the vine? (John 15:5). Orthodoxy is a way of life, not a rite.]

[The Divine Liturgy is not a more picturesque way of saying Mass: it comes forth from, and strengthens, a theological reality that becomes void and inconsistent if excised from Orthodoxy.]

[The almost paranoid observance of the ritual forms is the useless attempt to make up for the lack of a true Orthodox ethos. I was deluding myself when I believed I was able to be an Orthodox in the Roman communion. It was a delusion because it is impossible.]

[No, Bill, it is impossible to be both Roman Catholic and Orthodox at the same time. The rite is not all that important. After all, the Latins were Western Rite Orthodox for many centuries.]

 

Bravo! This is an excellent letter!   Unlike our separated brothers and sisters who are now 'under Rome',  this person has been fully able to grasp what it means to be an Orthodox Catholic!  Our separated brethern, after 400+ years of separation from Holy Orthodoxy don't even have a clue!  Otherwise they would be able to see the absurdity of claiming they are 'Orthodox In Communion With Rome'.  This person has been able to wash away all the blinders put up by his former allegiances and rightfully examined the facts.

There are those on the 'other' list who constantly disagree with me when I present the Orthodox viewpoint on various issues and doctrines.  But will then turn around and claim they are 'Orthodox In Communion With Rome'!  If they were, they would be agreeing with me!  But because they see Orthodoxy as a 'ritual' thing they are unable to understand the fallacy of their identity claims.

This person has my deepest respect and admiration because he has truly learned what it means to be an Orthodox Catholic.  More so than even some Orthodox Catholics I know.

Orthodoc

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« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2003, 09:15:23 AM »

This is a very good letter.  I have felt many of the same things expressed in this letter in my conversion from Roman Catholicism to Byzantine Catholicism to finally Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2003, 09:27:26 AM »



There are those on the 'other' list who constantly disagree with me when I present the Orthodox viewpoint on various issues and doctrines.  
Orthodoc

 

Hey Orthodoc, are you the "Orthoman" in the 'other' list.  If you are , you do a good job shaking things up over there!
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"If we truly think of Christ as our source of holiness, we shall refrain from anything wicked or impure in thought or act and thus show ourselves to be worthy bearers of his name.  For the quality of holiness is shown not by what we say but by what w
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« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2003, 03:22:48 PM »

Quote
I have a great debt of gratitude towards a priest who, in that time, refused to give me Communion. Instead of softly speaking of "canonical impediments," as if the matter were merely a bureaucratic problem, he said to me barefacedly, "If it is true that you consider yourself an Orthodox, why is it that you keep belonging to heresy?"

I had a similar experience with a priest named Father Aleksandr when I first went to Moscow. I was still Lutheran at the time.

It shook me up. I was so used to regarding all who professed Christ as members of the big, invisible, unknowable "Church" that I was surprised when I met someone who told me I was actually outside the Church.

It was a good thing for me to hear and just what the Great Physician ordered.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2003, 03:23:13 PM by Linus7 » Logged

The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true faith and in no way to deviate from the established doctrine of the Fathers.
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