aHay (my brethren),
I recently received a forward of an article published by the late Metran Kakshi bishop Paulos Mar Gregorios entitled: "How Different is The Eastern Orthodox Church." The article can be found here:
Though this article has good points, it also contains many negligent misrepresentations and false information. My purpose in responding to this article is not to condemn the author (I'm positive his life was more holy than my own), but to point out the misinformation so that we might all be better educated. If you'd like to read more about him, you can pick up "IVAR PARANJIRUNNATHINGANE
ENNAL IPPOL" from the Mor Adai Study Center or visit his official website: http://www.paulosmargregorios.info/
I will only respond to the relevant points which necessitate a response.
"First, both Roman Catholics and Protestants are Western Christian groupings. The Orthodox Church is not Western Christianity. Eastern in origin, it was from the beginning open to influence from all cultures. In the first century Christianity was primarily an Asian - African religion. Only by the 4th century did the Roman Empire become increasingly Christian."
While it is true that Orthodox Christianity is not Protestant nor Roman Catholic, it is untrue that the Orthodox Church is "Eastern in origin" and "not Western Christianity." Christianity (which is Orthodoxy) began in the Near East (Palestine). While it did spread through Asia and Africa, it also spread into Europe: both Eastern and Western. Even though it was not until the early 4th century before there was imperial sponsorship, there were Christians in the Roman Empire; the Roman Empire was not simply "the West."
The Roman Empire encompassed North Africa, much of the Near East, and the Hellenic world in addition to the West.
Let's be realistic, where does the author think that Judea and Asia Minor were? - they were part of the Roman Empire. The truth is that Christianity began within the Roman Empire.
"We can make a list of the earliest Churches - the Churches of the first century. In the West, i.e. Italy: 2 Churches - Rome and Puteoli (today Pozzuoli near Naples)"
RETORT: (These churches were in the Roman Empire)
In the first century, there were also churches in Britain, Gaul, and Iberia (Spain). Far beyond the Mediterranean to the west, beyond the western extent of the Roman Empire, Saint Dorotheus of Tyre and others record the Christian Church as reaching the British Isles by AD 37. Saint Dorotheus tells us that the first Bishop in the far west (Britain) was Saint Aristobulus (Apostle of the Seventy) - the Apostle of Britain in AD 37. We know of subsequent bishops through the second and succeeding centuries. The Church was established
beyond the Roman pale in Britain, and also grew within the Roman areas. Saint Aine is recorded as a Christian hermit in the south of France in AD 80 and by AD 397 the first organized monasteries were appearing in the British Isles. We know that Saint Paul had a group of Christians, apparently pre-existing his arrival in Rome in AD 61. The Church is neither "Eastern" nor "Western", it is universal as any genuine Orthodox Christian knows.
There were many early saints in the West: St. Simon the Zealot, who was crucified in Britain; St. Aristobulus, first Bishop of Britain in Llandaff/Caerleon; St. Linus came from Britain, but he was a Roman Christian in Rome; St. Joseph of Arimathea; St. Lazarus in Gaul; Ss. Mary & Martha of Bethany; St. Mary Magdalene in Gaul; St. James the Lesser was in Iberia; St. Phillip the Apostle was in Gaul; St. Irenaeus of Lyons, etc.
Western Greece: 5 Churches - Nicopolis, Corinth, Athens, Thessalonica and Philippi.
Eastern Greece (Asia Minor, today Turkey): 15 Churches - Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, Troas, Miletus, Colossae, Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe.
Syria and the East: 6 Churches - Antioch, Tarsus Edessa, Damascus, Tyre, Sidan
Palestine: 4 Churches, Caesarea, Jerusalem, Samaria, Pella
Cyprus: 2 Churches, (Paphos and Salamis)
Pentapolis (North Africa): Cyrene"
All these churches were located in the Roman Empire. Palestine is considered a part of Syria and I'm not sure when the author split it away from his classification of "Syria and the East."
It is interesting that the author would write six churches in Syria and the East, then separate Malanbar as if it is not part of the East. What about the communities in Persia and Armenia? The communities at Hdayab and Nsibin were well known. It is also arguable that there was a community in Gondapharus.
"What do they believe differently?
The very question is a Western one. In the West a Church is defined mainly by what it believes, i. e. by its doctrines and teachings. This intellectualist orientation of faith does not belong to the Eastern tradition"
I'm not sure the author is saying what he really intends to say. The One Holy Universal Apostolic Church that we confess in the creed is completely intellectual. The idea of "Orthodoxy" is an intellectual one. It pits one idea (orthodox) vs. another idea (heterodox). Throughout the history of the early Church, the fathers were writing against heresies and for intellectual
concepts. Even St. Ephraim writes against Bardaisan. Perhaps St. Ephraim is the prime example of the Orthodox mind. He is extraordinarily profound in his thinking, yet he approached it mystically. It would be better stated, that since the days of St. Thomas Acquainas, the Roman Catholics have shifted their focus more into the philosophical arena, than the spiritual arena. Nevertheless, the Roman Catholics continued their mystical orders and produced saints such as St. Theresa of Avila and Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Let us also remember that St. Francis of Assissi was a Roman Catholic. I would not consider any of these gentle souls to be intellectualists. In fact, with the way we behave sometimes, I think they are far more Orthodox than many of us. (NOTE: This is not an endorsement of Papism. I am completely against the idea of the Papacy and believe we need to keep our distance from these Roman
"There are other doctrines and dogmas which the Roman Catholic Church has added to the Niceno - Constantinopolitan Creed - e. g. the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the dogma of Papal Infallibility, and the dogma of the bodily assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary."
While it is true that the Roman Catholics did add these teachings, they did not add them to the Nicene-Constantinopolian Creed. To the creed they added the Filioque (and the Son) clause with regards to the procession of the Holy Spirit.
"The West separates action from contemplation, thought and prayer.
For us it is in and from eucharistic worship that all action, contemplation, thought and prayer derive their significance."
I think that the Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans would ultimately explain they feel the same about the Eucharist.
It is sad to see such gross errors regarding Orthodox Christianity and the West. The West has a rich history of Orthodox Christianity that must not be forgotten, especially by those who teach others. A real Christian is a real Christian wherever he or she may be. We should not be prideful and elevate the East over the West, though our Syriac ancestors come from the East. It is the East after all, that produced Islam. Let us all be students of true Christian history, that we may be inspired by the same spirit which inspired
Pray for me,
St. Mary's Simhasana JSOC,
Santa Fe Springs, CA
Member ID # 0902