1. The Orthodox Church of the East is the Church that Christ founded in 33 AD. She is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church confessed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. All other churches are separated from by schism, heresy, or both, including the Roman Catholic Church.
Right off the bat this blogger shows that he is most likely Orthodox. In 1054 AD the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church entered into schism from one another. The Eastern Orthodox believe that the Catholic Church broke off from them and (you shouldn't be surprised at this) the Catholic Church holds the opposite.
2. Jesus Christ, as Son of God is divine by nature, as born of the Virgin Mary, True Man by nature, alone is the head of the Church. No hierarch, no bishop, no matter how exalted, is the earthly head of the Church, since Jesus Christ’s headship is enough.
The Church Fathers certainly disagree. While Jesus Christ is certainly the ultimate head of His Church, He has placed others as visible heads on this earth. Or do the Orthodox think that Bishops have no divine authority even over their own local Church?
3. All bishops are equal in their power and jurisdiction. Precedence between bishops is a matter of canonical and therefore of human, not divine law. “Primacies” of honor or even jurisdiction of one bishop over many is a matter of ecclesiastical law, and dependent bishops need to give their consent to such subordination in synod assembled.
Yes, part of the ecclesiastical organization and structure is very much modeled on human design -- such as the borders of dioceses, the reason Constantinople ever became a Patriarchate, even the reason why Peter and Paul felt compelled to go to Rome. Even some of the jurisdictional authority is based on human modeling -- such as how an Archbishop is given so-called suffragan dioceses. But, there is some actual divinely given authoritative differences (here we'd get into debates on probably Matthew 16).
One question I've always had that's never really been answered is -- what exactly is a primacy of honor, what does it entail, and why would Jesus institute it into His Church (for the common Orthodox interpretation of Matthew 16 is a primacy of honor, from what I've seen).
4. The Church is a communion of churches conciliar in nature; it is not a “perfect society” arranged as a pyramid with a single monarchical hierarch on top. As such, the Orthodox Church gives priority to the first Seven Ecumenical Councils as having precedent in defining the nature of Christian belief, the nature and structure of the Church, and the relationship between the Church and secular government, as well as the continuation of synodal government throughout their churches to this day.
I wonder if the author realizes that the Catholic Church is also conciliar, we just hold that there is a head of the council and that head has certain and real authority and prerogatives.
5. Outside of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the Orthodox Church receives with veneration various other regional synods and councils as authoritative, but these are all of various national churches, and always secondary in authority to the first seven. They do not hold the other 14 Western Councils as having ecumenical authority.
True -- the Catholic Church recognizes 21 Ecumenical Councils and the Eastern Orthodox only recognize 7 Ecumenical Councils and the Oriental Orthodox only recognize 3 Ecumenical Councils and the Assyrian Orthodox only recognize 2 Ecumenical Councils.
6. Orthodox Christians do not define “authority” in quite the same way the Catholic Church would define it in terms of powers, jurisdictions, prerogatives and their interrelationships. Orthodox Christian would say that “authority” is inimical to Love and in this sense, only agape is the one firm criterion to delimit rights and responsibilities within the Church. Under this scheme, not even God himself is to be considered an “authority” even though, if there was a need of one, it would be that of God in Christ.
I don't think I would tell God he has no authority if I were you.
Also, authority in the Catholic Church is also seen primarily in servitude. Jesus told his disciples that whoever wanted to be the first among them must be the servant of them. One of the Pope's official titles is Servant of the Servants of God.
7. The Orthodox Church holds an anthropology different from that of the Catholic Church. This is because the Orthodox Church does not hold a forensic view of Original Sin, that is, they hold that the sin of Adam did not transmit an intrinsic, “guilt” to his descendants. “Ancestral Sin,” as they would call it, transmitted what may be termed as a “genetic predisposition” to sin, but not a juridical declaration from God that such-a-one is “born in sin.” Hyper-Augustinianism, Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed, is impossible in Orthodox anthropology because according to the Orthodox, man is still essentially good, despite his propensity to sin. By the way, even what Catholics would consider a “healthy Augustinianism” would be looked at with suspicion by most Orthodox authorities. Many trace “the fall” of the Latin Church to the adoption of St. Augustine as the West’s foremost theological authority for 1,000 years prior to St. Thomas Aquinas. The best evaluations of St. Augustine in the Orthodox Church see him as holy, well-meaning, but “heterodox” in many important details, starting with his anthropology.
The Catholic Church does not teach that we inherit a guilt of actual sin from Adam. We inherit his fallen nature.
402 All men are implicated in Adam's sin, as St. Paul affirms: "By one man's disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners": "sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned."289 The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men."290
403 Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam's sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the "death of the soul".291 Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.292
404 How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? the whole human race is in Adam "as one body of one man".293 By this "unity of the human race" all men are implicated in Adam's sin, as all are implicated in Christ's justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state.294 It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. and that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" - a state and not an act.
405 Although it is proper to each individual,295 original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence". Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.
406 The Church's teaching on the transmission of original sin was articulated more precisely in the fifth century, especially under the impulse of St. Augustine's reflections against Pelagianism, and in the sixteenth century, in opposition to the Protestant Reformation. Pelagius held that man could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God's grace, lead a morally good life; he thus reduced the influence of Adam's fault to bad example. the first Protestant reformers, on the contrary, taught that original sin has radically perverted man and destroyed his freedom; they identified the sin inherited by each man with the tendency to evil (concupiscentia), which would be insurmountable. the Church pronounced on the meaning of the data of Revelation on original sin especially at the second Council of Orange (529)296 and at the Council of Trent (1546).297
I also wonder if this Orthodox blogger realizes that Augustine is held in highest esteem by an Ecumenical Council (Constantinople III) that the Eastern Orthodox Church accepts. Also, more than one Eastern Orthodox has held Saint Thomas Aquinas in high esteem: Aquinas, a Light to the East?
8. Since no “forensic guilt” is transmitted genetically through “Original Sin,” the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother is considered superfluous. She had no need for such an exception because there was nothing to exempt her from in the first place. Of course, Mary is Theotokos (“God-bearer”), Panagia (“All-Holy”) and proclaimed in every Liturgy as “more honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim,” but her sanctification is spoken about more in terms of a special, unique, total, and gratuitous bestowing and subsequent indwelling of the Spirit in her, without the need of “applying the merits of the atonement” of Christ to her at the moment of conception, in order to remove a non-existent forensic guilt from her soul, as the Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception would have it. If pressed, Orthodox authorities would point at the Annunciation as the “moment” in which this utter experience of redemption and sanctification took place in the life of the Blessed Theotokos. Although the Orthodox believe in her Assumption, they deny that any individual hierarch has any power to singly and unilaterally define it as a dogma binding on the whole Church, and that only Councils would have such power if and when they were to proclaim it and its proclamations received as such by the entire Church.
Yes, a misunderstanding of the Catholic Church's view of Original Sin can easily lead to a misunderstanding of the Immaculate Conception. Let's put it this way -- by a unique grace of God, Mary was conceived in the same spiritual state as Adam and Eve, that is in the state of original innocence.
9. Although Orthodox Christians have at their disposal various institutions of learning such as schools, universities, and seminaries, and do hold “Sunday Schools,” at least in the USA, it is fair to say that the main catechetical vehicle for all Orthodox peoples is the Divine Liturgy. All the liturgical prayers are self-contained: they enshrine the history, the story, the meaning, and the practical application of what is celebrated every Sunday, major feast, and commemoration of angels, saints, and prophets. If one pays attention – and “Be attentive” is a common invitation made throughout the Divine Liturgy – the worshipper catches all that he or she needs to know and live the Orthodox faith without need for further specialized education. For this very reason, the Divine Liturgy, more than any other focus of “power and authority,” is the true locus of Orthodox unity and the principal explanation for Orthodox unity and resiliency throughout history.
Yes, the Divine Liturgy is catechetical -- the Catholic Church holds the same view. But, you can't learn everything in Liturgy that you don't need to further learn in, say, a University. In another thread here there was talk of whether or not Christ had a gnomic and/or discursive will. Where can I learn about that in the Liturgy?
Yes, the normal life of a parish will teach a person everything they need to know for their salvation -- this is true in both the Orthodox and Catholic faith. But for the finer points of philosophy and theology one needs further education. Do you think Bishop Ware knows all the minute points of thought that he knows merely from attending Liturgy -- or was it the years he spent at seminary and university that took him from a Orthodox believer who knew enough to get to heaven and propelled him to a formidable scholar who can precisely articulate his faith in theological and philosophical terms.
10. Since the celebration of the Divine Liturgy is overwhelmingly important and indispensable as the vehicle for True Christian Worship – one of the possible translations of “orthodoxy” is “True Worship – and as a teaching vehicle – since another possible translation of “orthodoxy” is “True Teaching” – all the ecclesiastical arts are aimed at sustaining the worthy celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Iconography in the Eastern Church is a mode of worship and a window into heaven; the canons governing this art are strict and quite unchanging and the use of two-dimensional iconography in temples and chapels is mandatory and often profuse. For them, church architecture exists to serve the Liturgy: you will not find in the East “modernistic” temples resembling auditoriums. Same thing applies to music which is either plain chant, or is organically derived from the tones found in plain chant. This allows for “national expressions” of church music that nevertheless do not stray too far away from the set conventions. Organ music exists but is rare; forget guitars or any other instrument for that matter. Choral arrangements are common in Russia – except in the Old Calendarist churches – the Orthodox counterparts to Catholic “traditionalists.”
As for music -- personally I musically prefer a cappella chant, especially Old Roman Chant that retains the drone line like in Byzantine Chant. But, there is nothing theologically or liturgically wrong with certain instruments being used and offered to God. Recall that many psalms even include instructions to use instruments such as lyre and harps -- certainly God does not disdain our use of instruments to glorify Him.
11. There are Seven Sacraments in the Orthodox Church, but that’s more a matter of informal consensus based on the perfection of the number “seven” than on a formal dogmatic declaration. Various Orthodox authorities would also argue that the tonsure of a monk or the consecration of an Emperor or other Orthodox secular monarch is also a sacramental act. Opinion in this instance is divided and the issue for them still open and susceptible to a final dogmatic definition in the future, if one is ever needed.
Well, I'd like a more precise definition from the Orthodox on what is a sacrament and what is a sacramental act, but from the Catholic perspective, a tonsure and consecration can indeed be sacramental in nature. By sacramental, we mean something that disposes us to receive grace from the seven sacraments.
12. The end of man in this life and the next is similar between the Orthodox and the Catholics but I believe the Orthodox “sing it in a higher key.” While Catholics would say that the “end of man is to serve God in this life to be reasonably happy in this life and completely happy in the next,” a rather succinct explanation of what being “holy” entails, the Orthodox Church would say that the end of man is “deification.” They will say that God became man so that man may become “god” in the order of grace, not of nature of course. Men – in the Greek the word for “man” still includes “womankind” – are called to partake fully of the divine nature. There is no “taxonomy” of grace in the Orthodox Church, no “quantification” between “Sanctifying Grace” and actual grace, enabling grace, etc. Every grace is “Sanctifying Grace,” who – in this Catholic and Orthodox agree – is a Person, rather than a created power or effect geared to our sanctification. Grace is a continuum, rather than a set of discreet episodes interspersed through a Christian’s life; for an Orthodox Christian, every Grace is Uncreated. The consequences of such a view are rich, unfathomable, and rarely studied by Catholic Christians.
I think the author is trying to make distinctions where there are none. Yes, we look at things in different perspectives, but we both essentially teach similar things -- I certainly don't think Catholic eschatology is any more subdued than the Orthodox.
Did I miss something, or was the filioque not even mentioned?
I'm surprised that wasn't mentioned either, or that no mention was made of the use of unleavened bread, or other things.
But, to my mind, the only true difference between Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism is in the understanding of the Papacy. All the rest is misunderstanding, quibbling over saying the same thing in diverse ways, or plain petty arguing.