Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | April 18, 2008

Fr. Meletios Webber on The Church

With the Pope’s visit here in Washington, D.C., the papers are full of reflection on the contributions of the Catholic church to our culture, and the “indispensability of Rome”. Fine. I even remember a rather vivid internet discussion some time back of a prominent conversion of an Episcopal priest and his remarks on “swimming the Tiber” that it was the very pugnacious audacity of Rome’s self-proclamation to the world as the bastion of Christianity that he found so important. Good. And at the same time… odd. And I say odd because in many ways this characteristic seems to me almost precisely the sort of tone set by the Reformers in their own manifestos, confessions, and the like. But more true to her roots than her offspring, the Roman Church remains a great institution and I have nothing but respect and honor for her.

My own course followed a different reasoning and landed in a different place. Maybe the place is the mess folks think it is from the outside… maybe it’s not… but I am. Maybe I’m clueless about the errors of my progression… but I’m here all the same. And hey… I’m still thankful to be here. But odd as it is, I’m here in this ancient church…. this church of the seven councils that is so separate in its mind and heart from the church of Rome… precisely because of the prominence of Pope John Paul. Sure, he did not convince me of his church, but he did convince me of his faith, of the necessity of the Church and making a sincere effort to turn one’s life to God. So I have nothing but gratitude for the church of Rome… her doctrine, her dogma, her faith, people and her leadership. And I thank God that for the church of Rome, and that – if you will forgive me here – there was and is another more ancient and apostolic choice.

So it seems a fine occasion to trot out another section of text from Fr. Mel’s great book (“Steps of Tranformation”). This piece on the Church gently and humbly differentiates the Orthodox Church in a way that seems worthy of her.

“Orthodoxy was not to be invented, but discovered, and the process of that discovery took many strange twists. Often the champions of Orthodoxy were seen as failures during their lifetimes, and on a number of occasions, those who upheld the Orthodox doctrine were a small minority among the majority of believers. On three occasions in particular, Orthodoxy has been defended by lone figures – St. Athanasios in the fourth century, St. Maximos the Confessor in the seventh, and St. Mark of Ephesus in the fifteenth century.”

“The criterion for Orthodoxy, then, is not that it is something good or perfect in men’s eyes, but rather that it is something good in God’s eyes. That is what makes Orthodoxy what its name implies – “right glory,” an authentic expression of the worshiping Church.”

“This situation, then, runs counter to notions that the Orthodox Church has to be the biggest, or the best, or the most powerful. Indeed, she does not need to claim such attributes, since she, as a whole, is the expression of the truth of God.”

“If, then, the Orthodox Church possesses the truth of God, the fullness of the Christian revelation, then ultimately the success or otherwise of the Church is in God’s care, not ours. It is our task to be the best that we can be, but it is not our task to try to convince others of the rightness of our cause.”



Responses

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