Monday, September 15, 2014

A Russian Orthodox woman writes to Catholics

Ekaterina Androvna ("Katy as I am called here") writes to "Catholic & Orthodox: Steps Towards a Reunited Church" on Facebook:
I would like to elicit your comments regarding the religious tensions that have been ongoing in the Ukraine and Russia vis à vis the current geopolitical situation and how this may reflect upon the future of Christianity in the EU and its continuing desire to achieve harmony with Russia and her "Official" Church. Whether acknowledged or not, it is indeed the Holy Russian Orthodox Church of Mother Russia. That which is occurring is a microcosm the free world has been experiencing for some time. Orthodoxy believes she is the saviour of the world. I as a devout believer agree.

What parameters are needed in order to soften the diatribe that has been ongoing? Brothers and sisters, Christianity is suffering a horrible and torturous death in Europe. To clarify, when I refer to Christianity in the previous sentence, it is the Western form — all denominations and professions.

Eastern European nations and Russia recognize this failure as a result of western Christianity's separation from the Orthodox Church by which I refer to as the nascent Church from its conception up until the rupture of communion when Rome removed herself from it. Many here (Russia) would say, "As Rome continued down the path of her degradation due to turning her back on the only Church that existed at the time." These are not my sentiments but those of the millions of Orthodox believers from the Hierarchy, theologians, scholars of the Church all the way down through the fishmongers.

Into this plethora where does the quest for the union of Orthodoxy and Catholicism assimilate itself and offer sustainable, actual and credible facts from past historical relations between the Churches?

These are not easy queries but this Group's reputation precedes itself and others have noticed. Correct me if I am wrong but is it not said in America, "Can you cut the mustard?" You are the 'you.' This is the work that I do on a daily basis. I am coming to you for input as well as your experiences, thoughts, feelings, etc.

This cannot turn into useless argumentation and battles but MUST and ONLY be grounded with both historical fact and truth as well as offering new insights on the past, present and future. Those who do not want to take part, I respect your decision but please do not demean it or chalk it off as rubbish as I am sure some of you after reading this may already be inclined to. If you have nothing positive or constructive to offer than please refrain from posting. Time is of the essence. Our salvation is near at hand.

As a group, are you "up to the challenge," as a dear, dear former professor of mine from Oxford would say as he would end his discourse?
Answer before it's deleted or flamed:

Дорогая Екатерина, здравствуй! Hi, Katy. "Orthodoxy believes she is the saviour of the world." As she should, having a true-church claim just like ours. Theirs doesn't convince me, though, because as great as the Byzantine Rite and Russian culture are, they aren't the whole church and Orthodoxy can't convince me otherwise. I see just one set of beliefs (едина вера) that Catholics and Orthodox share — God, Christ, Trinity, hypostatic union, Mother of God, bishops, the Mass, and the option of images — with many ritual/cultural expressions. Nothing in Catholicism is telling the Russians to give up their rite and culture. The Pope only defends that set of beliefs, as well as our common historic belief against contraception. So I'm a Catholic.

From the same forum:
  • While there are differing degrees of orthodoxy within the Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox Christians commonly believe that salvation is achieved through living holy, Christ-like lives, known as deification or theosis. There are no traditional Western notions of Heaven and Hell in Eastern Orthodoxy, but rather the idea that both Heaven and Hell are the experience of being in God’s eternal presence. For one who loves God, God’s eternal presence is a Heaven; for one who does not love God, God’s eternal presence is a Hell. Sure; not all Catholics or Orthodox are orthodox. The church is a big tent of sinners, not a cult. This view of the afterlife is one Eastern saint's opinion, one who wasn't Chalcedonian Orthodox, St. Isaac the Syrian, and all of this is Catholic. The church has different schools of thought and spirituality below the level of doctrine.
  • Ukrainian Catholic altar girls. Shaking my head. Never seen it but knew there was trouble 25 years ago; when I heard a Ukrainian Catholic priest giving a talk apologize for "sexist language" in a quote you could have picked up my jaw from the floor.
    I'm going to broach a difficult topic so I ask for your patience and charity. I was surprised to see that some Eastern Catholic Churches allow women acolytes, lectors, and subdeacons. Does this speak to the once present "identity crisis" experienced by many Eastern Churches in communion with Rome, or does this stem rather from an ancient understanding of these ministries and roles? Does the Orthodox Church ever allow women lectors/acolytes/subdeacons? This is a very touchy issues with Roman Catholics since many see altar service as a means for exposing young men to consider the priesthood. Even the "instituted ministries" of lector and acolyte are reserved for men. Most parishes, however, utilize "Extraordinary Ministers" which is open to women. Thoughts? Ideas? Citations from our tradition?
    It's obviously corruption from the Novus Ordo, although some intelligentsia Orthodox in the West make feminist noises including about women deacons. Altar boys East and West are substitutes for minor clerics (which the Orthodox are better about still having, but they use altar boys too): JROTC for the priesthood; "Knights of the Altar."
    Our UGCC parish in DC (Holy Family Shrine) routinely has female altar servers. Had been this way for at least 4 years. "Stephen, did some of the older Ukes have issues with this? Change, after all, is next to impossible in our church." Ray, I assume that some of the older parishioners had issues, but they got over it. When I joined the parish it was a done deal. Considering the alternative of none, creating the awkwardness of some elder shuffling to the front of the church to open the side doors, and carry the lectern, I guess they got used to it.

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