Posts tagged with: Eastern Christianity


Fr. Matthew Baker

Alexis de Tocqueville, observing the young United States in the 1830s, wrote, “Wherever, at the head of a new undertaking, you see in France the government, and in England, a great lord, count on seeing in the United States, an association.” In the midst of recent tragedy — the untimely death of Fr. Matthew Baker, a Greek Orthodox priest killed in a car accident this past Sunday evening, leaving behind his wife and six children — it is a source of hope to see that this American associational persistence is still alive in the present.

Without hesitation, friends of Fr. Matthew set up a page at the crowd funding site gofundme, and they have already raised a tremendous sum to support Presvytera Katherine and the children.

The loss of Fr. Matthew has been felt far beyond Orthodox Christian circles and close friends. Americans across the country, utilizing modern technology for this good work, have come together across confessional lines to help a family they have never personally known.

As for myself, I had only just begun to know Fr. Matthew. I regret that is all I can say. We both were contributors to Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy and belong to a Facebook group related to our writing there. I had just spoken with him (via Facebook) the previous night, not even 24 hours before his death. (more…)

Alexei Khomiakov, the Russian Slavophile thinker often credited with first articulating the Orthodox principle of sobornost.

Today at Ethika Politika I offer an assessment of the phenomenon of globalization from the perspective of Orthodox Christian anthropology. In particular, I focus on the concept of sobornost in the thought of the Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, writing,

Solovyov’s account of the moral progress of humanity through globalization is rooted in the Russian idea of sobornost’, which Christopher Marsh and Daniel P. Payne define as “the idea that human beings retain their freedom while participating in human society, and that human society is a participatory process through which human beings actualize themselves as unique hypostases [i.e. persons].” Accordingly, Solovyov writes that true society does not abolish the individual, but “subordination to society uplifts the individual” and “the independence of the individual lends strength to the social order” — an Orthodox parallel to subsidiarity.

I had raised the question of the similarity between sobornost and subsidiarity a few weeks ago during Fr. Michael Butler’s Acton University talk on “Orthodoxy, Church, and State.” I summarized his insight on the concept at the time, writing,

With the reforms of Tsar Peter the Great, however, the Church was literally made a department of the state [in Russia]. The inspiration for this, notably, was not symphonia but the European Protestant national Church model. While in this context the Russian Church still continued to carry out its functions in society, it had lost a great degree of autonomy. In the midst of this context, the Slavophile thinkers Alexei Khomiakov and Ivan Kireevsky reacted to this statist trend in Russian society by developing the theory of sobornost, inspired in part by the Russian word for “Catholic” in the Nicene Creed and inspired by the Orthodox Church’s conciliar basis of authority.

As they framed it, the idea of sobornost placed the idea of sovereignty in the whole of a people. All human beings are interconnected, and each therefore deserves their own autonomy while, at the same time, [each] has a duty to serve all others…. Ultimately, sobornost at its best would be an Orthodox parallel to subsidiarity in which each level of society, all the way down to the individual, has a role to freely play for the common good and each has a duty to assist others for that end.

The question of similarities and differences between subsidiarity and sobornost has been on my mind for some time. There would seem to be clear parallels between the concepts that were coincidentally developed in their modern forms at nearly the same time, though among different traditions for somewhat different purposes. (more…)

The double-headed eagle is a historical symbol of symphonia.

Today at Acton University, Fr. Michael Butler examined the history of Church-State relations in the Orthodox Tradition with special reference to the modern, Russian context in his lecture “Orthodoxy, Church, and State.” The audio of his lecture will be available via Ancient Faith Radio sometime in the coming weeks. As a teaser, I would like to briefly examine two concepts of Orthodox political theory to which Fr. Butler devoted specific attention: symphonia and sobornost.

Due to the influence of Max Weber, symphonia is often mischaracterized as caesaropapism (a term he coined), the state in which a nation’s sovereign is supreme in all ecclesiastical matters as well as those of state. It would be, then, a complete absorption of the Church by the state. Actual historical instances of this would include (to varying degrees) the Church of England where the monarch is the head and Imperial Russia from Tsar Peter the Great’s Westernizing reforms to the Bolshevik revolution. In the latter case, as Fr. Michael noted, one can see a distortion of symphonia for the elevation of state power, but not its essence or, by far, the complete historical picture. (more…)

Blog author: jcouretas
Tuesday, June 11, 2013

schmemannMan’s nature is to reject it, because it can only be thrust on people by force. The most fallen possession is closer to God’s design for man than malicious egalitarianism. Possession is what God gave me (which I usually (mis)use selfishly and sinfully), whereas equality is what government and society give me, and they give me something that does not belong to them. (The desire for) Equality is from the Devil because it comes entirely from envy.

– Fr. Alexander Schmemann, The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983, page 330-331.

(HT: AOI Observer)

(HT: Also see the interview with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) in the new issue of Religion & Liberty on the dire situation of Christians in Syria.)

In his interview to the MEDIA, a Hierarch of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, Bishop Luke of Seidnaya, has disclosed the scale of persecutions suffered by Orthodox Christians of this region since the very beginning of the uprising against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad, reports

By now, 138,000 Christians have been banished from their homes and at the same time Christian Churches are systematically destroyed. “They are killing people. A human life is of no value for them,” in such words Bishop Luke is describing the situation in the country.

Thus, in the city of Homs, anti-government forces have committed mass murder of Christians. Hundreds of people have been killed. Dozens of cases of sexual assault have also been recorded. (more…)

“Every public gesture and word of the Holy Father tends to have meaning,” says Charles J. Chaput, the archbishop of Philadelphia. “So what was the pope saying with this symbolism as he began his new ministry?” Chaput believes Pope Francis focus is the persecuted church:

The Chaldean and Syriac Catholic Churches of Iraq and Syria, while differing in rite and tradition from the Latin West, are integral members of the universal Catholic Church, in full communion with the bishop of Rome. The persecution they and other Middle Eastern Christians now suffer—so severe it threatens their continued existence in their ancient homelands—is a bitter wound for the Church and an unavoidable concern for the Holy Father.

Of the million or so Christians living in Iraq a decade ago, fewer than half likely remain. During this period, seventy Iraqi Christian churches were attacked. Christian laity and clergy have faced relentless violence. Between 2003 and May 2012, some nine hundred Christians were killed. Another two hundred were kidnapped, tortured, and released for ransom, according to the Iraq-based Hammurabi Organization for Human Rights.

Read more . . .

Metropolitan Siluan (Muci) of Buenos Aires, an Orthodox Christian hierarch, was the representative of the Patriarchate of Antioch at the inaugural mass for Pope Francis this week. Notes on Arab Orthodoxy has a personal reflection on the new pope from Met. Siluan (and links to the Spanish-language originals). The Orthodox bishop offers insights about the qualities of this “very easygoing” new pope from informal meetings and dinners he took part in. Met. Siluan:

At the table where the cardinals from Cuba, Ecuador, Santo Domingo, etc. were gathered, I wanted to know the opinions that they had of the pope. So each one of them agreed to answer the question: What are the qualities of Pope Francis?

I will share below some of the answers that I received. Some of it I already shared with [Argentine news station] C5N, who asked me to share some of what I experienced here.

One emphasized the fact that the pope is an organizer, who knows where and how to get something done, a man of great simplicity and mercy.

Another emphasized that the pope is a man who understands his surroundings well, who is generous, a man of words who knows how to speak without offending.

A third said that he is a humble man, who is transparent, honest, who knows things in Latin America who will know how to tell those who correspond from each of those countries what he will have to do. (more…)