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Orthodoxy & the Reformation

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  • Christopher Orr
    By Fr John-Mark Titterington In the 1999 Archive (see pp. 10-12) of the *Orthodox Christian
    Message 1 of 3 , May 4, 2010
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      By Fr John-Mark Titterington

      In the 1999 Archive <http://www.orthodoxlibrary.co.uk/archive1999.pdf> (see
      pp. 10-12) of the *Orthodox Christian Library<http://www.orthodoxlibrary.co.uk/>
      *

      It is tempting to begin a talk entitled "Orthodoxy and the Reformation" by
      declaring that there is no connection between the two -- we never had one,
      and that's it. But it is far from true to say that there is no connection
      between the two as the link is there, plainly for all to see, albeit five
      hundred years earlier. Many of our history books give the impression that
      what they call "The Reformation" was a sudden, grass-roots revolt against
      the Western Church, pioneered by the monk, Martin Luther, in Germany in
      1517.

      This is misleading because the seeds of the revolt were sown first, in the
      turbulent run-up to the historic break between the Eastern and Western
      churches in 1054 and then in the five hundred years which followed These
      seeds briefly were, the growing imperialistic designs of the Western Papacy,
      coupled with the increasing power of "the priesthood", both in the running
      of the Church and also inside the monasteries; and in cultivating, amongst
      other novel developments, daily and votive masses and clerical celibacy. It
      can now be seen that just because the Eastern church rejected these changes,
      it hardened the attitudes of their Western brothers, with the inevitable
      result -- the explosion which happened in 1517.

      But in between, three other events disturbed the status quo. First of these
      was the sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 and the
      setting up there of a Latin patriarch. True, that arrangement only lasted
      fifty years, but many Greek-minded historians would claim that we are still
      reaping the results of that violent conquest -- in Kosovo, for example.

      Relations between the Eastern and Western churches became so poor that
      something had to be done and there followed two quasi-Councils, both
      arranged to patch up the various quarrels. One was called the Council of
      Lyons and the second and more important the Council of Florence in 1438-9.
      At both of these agreement was achieved but when the Eastern representatives
      reached home, the treaties were rejected. This proved to be a last chance
      for peace, as just fourteen years later, in 1463, Constantinople was
      conquered by the Turks and life was never the same again in the East. It was
      against this background that the so-called Reformation errupted in Europe at
      the beginning of the sixthteenth century, only sixty-four years afterwards.

      The Turkish overlords were in many ways tolerant of Christianity. The Sultan
      appointed a new patriarch who had to pay a heavy fee for the privilege of
      being enthroned, but in return the Church received some protection, even as
      a second-class religion. The Church became what the Turks called a millet
      which meant in effect that the patriarch now became, not only the head of
      the Orthodox church, but also the head of the (nominally Greek) nation as
      well. In time, the Turkish occupation had two great effects on the Church
      for which survival became the all-important aspect. First, as could be
      expected, it caused an upsurge of conservatism -- nothing could or indeed,
      should be changed. And secondly, it led eventually to almost the opposite of
      that attitude, some degree of westernisation. This came about because of
      contacts which the Church made in non-Muslim countries with members of other
      Churches, e.g. the Jesuits and the Lutherans, and in Constatinople itself,
      with the chaplains of foreign embassies, who often played a religious as
      well as a political role. By comparison, the Orthodox recognised that their
      standards of education were lacking and the tendency arose for
      forward-looking Orthodox to go to Europe for their schooling.

      The first important meeting of Orthodox and Protestants began in 1573 when a
      delegation of Lutheran scholars from Tubingen, visited Constantinople and
      gave the Patriarch a copy of the Augsburg Confession translated into Greek.
      Obviously they hoped to start some sort of reformation among the Greeks. As
      one of their leaders said "If they wish to take thought for the eternal
      salvation of their souls, they must join us and embrace our teaching, or
      else perish eternally". The patriarch wrote three letters to them and
      eventually declared the correspondence closed, but the exchange shows the
      interest felt by the reformers for the Orthodox. More important, the
      Patriarch's replies are the first clear response of Orthodoxy to the new
      doctrines of the Reformation. The chief matters discussed were free will and
      grace; Scripture and Tradition, the sacraments, prayers for the dead and to
      the saints.

      That exchange ended amicably but not so the first major contact with Rome.
      This happened in the Ukraine which at the time was part of Lithuania and
      Poland because of the union of their rulers, and the Jesuits were keen to
      make the people of "Little Russia" as the Ukraine was called, into Roman
      Catholics. Eventually in 1596, a council was called at Brest-Litovsk to
      proclaim union with Rome but two bishops and a large delegation from the
      monasteries and the parishes voted to remain Orthodox and in the end both
      sides just excommunicated each other. This council in 1596 has tended to
      embitter Roman-Orthodox relations to modern times.

      One of the representatives of the Patriarch at Brest-Litovsk was a young
      Greek priest called Cyril Lukaris. He was appalled by the treatment of the
      people of Little Russia by the Poles and when he became Patriarch, he
      devoted much of his great energy to combating all Roman Catholic influence
      in the Turkish Empire. This meant that he became deeply immersed in both
      politics and also in the natural opposition, Lutheranism. Its a long and
      involved story which we can't go into now. Five times was Cyril displaced
      from the Patriarchial throne and five times restored. Eventually he was
      strangled by Turkish soldiers and his body thrown into the Bosphorus -- a
      tragic end, for he was an able man. But he is sometimes dubbed as "the
      Calvinist Patriarch" for a book he wrote called his "Confessions" which was
      condemmed by no less than six local councils between 1638 and 1691. This was
      written after his contact with a Dutch Calvinist, Cornelius van Haag who
      significantly influenced him in a reformed direction but he was really alone
      in taking this road.

      In other places, away from the Ukraine, relations with the Roman Catholics
      were more cordial in the seventeenth century, especially in the Greek
      islands under Venetian rule, but after 1700 these contacts became less
      frequent. In 1724, a large part of the Antiochian Patriarchate submitted to
      Rome and this made the rest of the orthodox world more cautious. The climax
      of anti-Roman feeling came in 1755 when the Patriarchs of Constantinople,
      Antioch and Jerusalem declared Latin baptism invalid and demanded that all
      converts to Orthodoxy be baptised again.

      But these things ebbed and flowed. The great Orthodox compendium of
      spirituality called the Philokalia was first published in Venice in 1782. It
      was a huge volume of 1,207 folio pages and the Monk Nicodemus of Mount Athos
      who put it all together included Roman Catholic works of devotion by Lorenzo
      Scupoli and Ignatius Loyola. He was also a strong advocate of weekly
      communion for the faithful at a time when most Orthodox received communion
      just three times a year.

      Looking back, it appears to us now that there was much talking without any
      tangible results. The reasons for this are plain to see. In trying to come
      to terms, as for example, at the Council of Florence, both East and West
      were really hoping for military aid against their foes and God hardly got a
      look in to the agreements which were made and then discarded. With the
      Lutherans the Orthodox had little common ground except their mutual fear and
      dislike of Rome. This, Steven Runciman says in his book "The Great Church in
      Captivity", was not enough. He goes on: "The Orthodox, with their mysticism,
      their taste for the apophatic approach and their loyalty to their old
      traditions, belonged to a different world, a world which the West could not
      understand" (page 319). This, as we shall see in future talks, is still a
      fair comment.


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Mike Bennett
      Dialogue might have a better chance if terms such as so-called Reformation were eschewed.  (I would say the same to my Orthodox brother).   Mike Bennett,
      Message 2 of 3 , May 4, 2010
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        Dialogue might have a better chance if terms such as "so-called Reformation" were eschewed.  (I would say the same to my Orthodox brother).
         
        Mike Bennett, Lutheran

        --- On Tue, 5/4/10, Christopher Orr <xcjorr@...> wrote:


        From: Christopher Orr <xcjorr@...>
        Subject: [LutheransLookingEast] Orthodoxy & the Reformation
        To: LutheransLookingEast@yahoogroups.com
        Date: Tuesday, May 4, 2010, 11:24 AM


         



        By Fr John-Mark Titterington

        In the 1999 Archive <http://www.orthodox library.co. uk/archive1999. pdf> (see
        pp. 10-12) of the *Orthodox Christian Library<http://www.orthodox library.co. uk/>
        *

        It was
        against this background that the so-called Reformation errupted in Europe at
        the beginning of the sixthteenth century, only sixty-four years afterwards.




        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Mike Bennett
        Having taken ubrage at so-called Reformation I should also say I think the article is a good, meaty one.    Mike Bennett ... From: Christopher Orr
        Message 3 of 3 , May 4, 2010
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          Having taken ubrage at "so-called Reformation" I should also say I think the article is a good, meaty one. 
           
          Mike Bennett

          --- On Tue, 5/4/10, Christopher Orr <xcjorr@...> wrote:


          From: Christopher Orr <xcjorr@...>
          Subject: [LutheransLookingEast] Orthodoxy & the Reformation
          To: LutheransLookingEast@yahoogroups.com
          Date: Tuesday, May 4, 2010, 11:24 AM


           



          By Fr John-Mark Titterington

          In the 1999 Archive <http://www.orthodox library.co. uk/archive1999. pdf> (see
          pp. 10-12) of the *Orthodox Christian Library<http://www.orthodox library.co. uk/>
          *

          It is tempting to begin a talk entitled "Orthodoxy and the Reformation" by
          declaring that there is no connection between the two -- we never had one,
          and that's it. But it is far from true to say that there is no connection
          between the two as the link is there, plainly for all to see, albeit five
          hundred years earlier. Many of our history books give the impression that
          what they call "The Reformation" was a sudden, grass-roots revolt against
          the Western Church, pioneered by the monk, Martin Luther, in Germany in
          1517.

          This is misleading because (etc.)




          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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