Greetings in that divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
No, there is no merit in this "critique." Just an agenda.
You called it
Christ, in Orthodox thought (or, at least, a popularized articulation of Orthodox thought), possess [sic] a cosmic Kingship; He is the “brooding omnipresence in the dome” of any properly constructed Orthodox temple, which leaves sufficient room for a more apt “doxological” cry from the kliros: “We have no king but Caesar!” There is a strange, almost disturbing, inversion of what Eric Voegelin called the “cosmological empire”: Orthodox society (more imagined than real) is not structured as a reflection of the cosmos; the cosmos under Christ is structured like a Byzantine court, with an earthly ceremonial ritual transformed into a liturgy that is given, by title, a divine status.
Venuleius (blog author): I’ve toyed (and, really, that’s all this is — toying) with the thesis that Christ is effectively “de-Incarnated” in popularized Orthodox thought, piety, liturgics, etc. So to assert, as Catholicism does (or, at least, did until Vatican II), that Christ is King in this world is an almost incomprehensible assertion for the Orthodox. Christ is Heaven (“the dome”), not here on earth;
Also, for reasons of historical accident more than anything else, it seems (I’m speculating here) that Orthodox piety centralized a cosmic, transcendent Christ over an earthly, suffering Christ (who was also, paradoxically, kingly). It’s almost as if Christ’s Kingship can’t be understand when he was “just” leading the Apostles around Galilee or “just” enduring questioning, mockery, physical assault, etc. He had to be positioned in the Heavens, with a choir of angels and Saints, to be a King.
How would you respond to this assertion that Orthodoxy (as opposed to Catholicism) de-incarnates Christ, that we relegate Him to a 'mystical/cosmological' role detached from this world? Is there any merit to this critique? He makes some very provocative, to say the least, assertions: for example, the claim that the Orthodox stand in the position of the Jews exclaiming we have no king but Caesar.
Venuleius: The question of Christ’s humanity in Orthodox (popular) thought is a difficult one to unravel, though I thought Fr. Patrick Reardon’s recent lecture on the Orthodox Western Rite where he notes that the Liturgy of St. John reflects a pre-Chalcedonian Christology offers a clue into the different “emphases” one finds in Eastern and Western Christian piety and liturgics. I discussed this matter with a friend of mine, and he noted that the humanity of Christ only becomes “front and center” during the liturgical offices of Holy Week, but by Holy Saturday it’s pulled back. (On this point I keep thinking of the Byzatine icon of Christ simultaneously “in the Heavens” and “in the Tomb”; there’s a powerful demand that people never forget that Christ is still God, which is theologically correct, though one could argue that it detracts from the very real (human) suffering and death he endured.)
Francis: I hear you and remember one of Balthasars’ critiques of slavic Byzantine iconography being deincarnated.
Would you go so far as to say or see a functional Monophysitism?
Note how he admits that the demand to never forget the Divinity of Christ is "theologically" correct, but still seems uncomfortable with it. Hate to be facile and dismissive, but, well, you know, the N word...
We never separate His humanity from His divinity, and we rarely de-incarnate Christ, though many heresies in the past have. This author is just misunderstanding our emphasis on the Divine. We as Orthodox have already embraced the humanity of Christ by accepting His coming in the Incarnate form, however, we must continually reaffirm our experience of His Divinity because this is God Almighty! We need God, and so we need the Divine!
]that Christ is King in this world is an almost incomprehensible assertion for the Orthodox.
This is nonsense because Christ is precisely King in this world because ALL of this world ONLY exists because of His own divine authority, life-giving power, and creation sustaining force. He is not tainted by our politics or socio-cultural baggage, true, rather He transcends these because of His Universal kingship, and when we cooperate with Him we to transcend our limited perspectives and join in not just in the Heavenly kingdom, but in manifesting the fullness of His kingship here on Earth in our present moments.
We accept Christ as King of both Heaven and Earth precisely by His Incarnation. Does Christ sit on an earthly throne surrounded by an ethnic federation or kingdom? Not necessarily, but than again, Christ is the truly Universal King of all Creation, both in Heaven and in Earth. We must therefore explicitly emphasize His kingship in Heaven, as this is as fundamentally important to us as any kingship on Earth. Further, as God Almighty, Christ is of course King in His Flesh, whether or not His crown is golden or of thorns, because as God Incarnate Christ perpetually and at every moment sustains all of His Creation. The Universe is not self-existing, only God is self-existing, and so in His Incarnation Christ effectively demonstrates His earthly (i.e., physical dominion) kingship in that He is the One sustaining all of Creation, just God always has, however now not just from His Divine existence, but in an unimaginable physical form. In this way, God expresses His kingly authority by physically sustaining the Universe, in being Himself a physical being, Jesus Christ the God-Man.
Our Divine liturgy is precisely that moment when the kingdoms of Heaven and Earth interact and unite by His Incarnation. We are not merely transported to Heaven, as if separate from Earth, and going to worship a Christ whose Kingdom is also separated from Earth, rather the Kingdom of Heaven intrudes upon Earth, and we bridge the gap just as Christ does by His very own Flesh and Blood. The Liturgy is not then orchestrated around the Byzantine Court, if anything, since the Liturgy is a glimpse into the Heavenly orders, the Byzantine courts (and indeed all Imperial Orthodox Courts, from Russia to Ethiopia and everywhere in between) were orchestrated around Heaven!
So we never think of Christ as only being a King in Heaven, even if He is sitting at the right hand of the Father as we pray in the Creed, because at the right hand of the Father He is sitting in His deified, resurrected, physical body, and as such is manifesting then His creative powers through His physical body, just as He always had through His spiritual hypostases as Father, Son the Word, and Holy Spirit. Now that the Word is Incarnate, the Son expresses His Divine power through His physical hypostasis of His incarnate body
. So He is always an earthly King then in the sense that in all of His actions He manifests them by His physical hypostasis, which is by definition earthly and interconnected with the physical realm of Earth by its very physicality. How could He then be "detached" from the physical world when for all time and forever He remains a physical being by His eternal Incarnation?
He might say, as sacerdotium but not as regnum. His critique seems to be that the Orthodox Church acts a dispenser of sacraments, but does not image Christ's Kingship over creation. How do you address that? What is Christ's Kingship? How does it differ from earthly kingship? How is it similar? How does He exercise it? How does the Orthodox Church show it forth?
Christ's Kingship is the power of His Divinity which creates and sustains all moments of reality. This kingship is expressed of course, by His Divinity as the Word, and yet become "earthly" because of the Incarnation. God is King because He is all-powerful. Jesus Christ is an earthly King because He is God in an earthly Form, manifesting the Immateriality of the Infinite Godhead's creative and sustaining faculties through His own human-divine hypostasis. An earthly king expresses power and authority over his earthly dominion by his own existing body, which is the only way for humans to express their God-given agency. Jesus Christ, as God, expresses His own Divine agency, also through His earthly Hypostasis, and therefore His Kingship, which is Divine, subsequently becomes Earthly as well.
I would say that this blog is simply clumsy and way to over-thinking it!