Sunday, June 25, 2006

Archpastoral Visit

(My apologies in advance for the sub-par photos)

A week ago today St. Barbara's was blessed with a visit from His Eminence Archbishop +DMITRI of Dallas and the South (we're spoiled being so close to our bishop). We had a full hierarchical liturgy, which was actually the way all services in the first days of Christianity used to be carried out. The camara was acting up, but imagine if you will the man in the last photo--a frail, bald man with a long, white beard, dressed in nothing more than a plain, black cassock which "is called 'the robe of salvation and the garment of joy,' symbolizing a pure and peaceful conscience, a spotless life, and the spiritual joy in the Lord which flows in him who wears it"--ending up like the first picture here, with each vestment placed on him serving as a reminder of all the different aspects of the office of bishop that the Holy Spirit conferred upon him for the building up of the Church and the right division of the Word of Truth.
In the earliest days of Christianity, when most every congrega- tion had their own bishop due to the small size of the Church at large, the bishop was vested in the midst of the rest of the ekklesia ("Church," or "assembly of people" in Greek), to show that he, a mere, sinful, fallible human being had been appointed by an apostle (who had, in turn, been appointed by Christ Himself) and given the grace of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands in order to continue the work the apostles started for the good of all Christ's Church. Here in this second photo we see Abp. +DMITRI, still in the midst of us, his hands being washed in accordance w/Psalm 25:6-7 (Ps. 26 in Protestant Bibles): "I will wash my hands in innocence; So I will go about Your altar, O LORD, That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, And tell of all Your wondrous works."
He then proceded to lead the congrega- tion in the rest of the Divine Liturgy as our father in Christ. I thought this was not only a good opportunity to get a photo of him serving at the altar with the rest of the clergy under him, but also to get a photo of our temporary iconostasis with the Pentecost green hung around it. Unfortunately, it seems that my digital camera and the new building don't get along too well together just yet. Hopefully this will improve.
This last photo is with me, Vladyka (a word that means "Master" in Slavonic, I think), and Hope after the service. Hope was fussy and clung to me like a velcro midget (she loved being held by him last December, but whaddyagonnado). He speaks fluent Spanish and was telling me about Orthodox liturgical materials that he had had translated for the Mexican Exarchate; he said he was going to see about getting me the materials I didn't already have. May God grant an increase in this area of outreach; efforts so far have been, by and large, quite frustrating, for reasons beyond me...

May God grant His Eminence many years!

6 comments:

Eric Weiss said...

You wrote:

In the earliest days of Christianity, when most every congregation had their own bishop due to the small size of the Church at large, the bishop was vested in the midst of the rest of the ekklesia ("Church," or "assembly of people" in Greek), to show that he, a mere, sinful, fallible human being had been appointed by an apostle (who had, in turn, been appointed by Christ Himself) and given the grace of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands in order to continue the work the apostles started for the good of all Christ's Church.

This raises a question I have. In John Zizioulas' BEING AS COMMUNION, he makes the point that a weakness/error in Orthodox ecclesiology occurred when they allowed a priest/elder to serve the liturgy. He says this breaks from the original pattern of the "catholic" (meaning "whole, complete") church being where the bishop is, and has caused bishops to assume an administrative role that they were never intended to have, and that the priest/elders were the "teachers" in the early church - the bishop stood in the place of Christ, and the people around the priest/elders and deacons and the bishop were "the catholic church." I.e., Z suggests that to be true to the original church, the Orthodox church needs more bishops so the local parishes would be true "catholic" churches. If Z's point is valid, when and why and where did the Orthodox church give the bishop's Eucharistic role to priests/elders, and what does such a change mean in terms of the Orthodox Church being the true Holy Catholic Apostolic church?

(You're right about us in the Metroplex being blessed - maybe we should visit St. Seraphim regularly so we can know +Dmitri better while he is still with us.)

David Bryan said...

Eric,

Thanks again for visiting! I've never actually read Being as Communion, though I hear it's good. I'll try to address the issues in your post as they come.

Your main question was this:
If Z's point is valid, when and why and where did the Orthodox church give the bishop's Eucharistic role to priests/elders, and what does such a change mean in terms of the Orthodox Church being the true Holy Catholic Apostolic church?" My short answers to each question respectively (each of which will be elaborated upon after quoting your research through Z's book) are these: 1) The bishops have never "given over" the Eucharistic role to the presbyters. 2) The lack of the physical presence of the bishop in no way diminishes the catholicity of the Church, but rather allows said catholicity to spread out.

"a weakness/error in Orthodox ecclesiology occurred when they allowed a priest/elder to serve the liturgy."

It's interesting to me that he would call this a weakness or an error, if those are indeed his words and not yours (I'm not saying they aren't, btw). To us, the partial move (and I stress the "partial" part) from bishop-only Eucharists to bishop-or-presbyter Eucharists was an organic one, borne out of necessity, much like the office of deacon, which was not, as far as we know, instituted directly by Christ but which was introduced later in order to help the ministers of the Church carry out their mission. As it was with deacons, so with the eventual bishop/presbyter distinction.

"He says this breaks from the original pattern of the "catholic" (meaning "whole, complete") church being where the bishop is..."

If this is what Z really says, it troubles me, or at least surprises me. The priest is not an agent of catholic unity in and of himself, nor does he "replace" the bishop. The only reason a presbyter is there is because the bishop cannot be there, and the presbyter is merely a stand-in for the bishop; the unity provided by the bishop is the only reason the presbyter can do what he does; the only difference now is that the bishop is not physically present, though his mark of communion still very much is present through the presbyter whom the bishop himself has appointed through the laying on of hands.

"and has caused bishops to assume an administrative role that they were never intended to have, and that the priest/elders were the 'teachers' in the early church - the bishop stood in the place of Christ, and the people around the priest/elders and deacons and the bishop were 'the catholic church.'"

This, I think, is inaccurate, as bishops absolutely must be attached to a permanent flock; a bishop with no direct flock is like a so-called shepherd who never comes into contact with actual sheep. I will, however, freely admit that there have been and are bishops who do much more administration than pastoral work, and this is lamentable). Abp. +DMITRI's personal flock is at St. Seraphim's in Dallas--usually in the early Church the most prominent city of a region served as the place the bishop resided. When a new region was evangelized, usually the Roman road to the main metropolis was used, so the gospel was first preached in those areas. The first congregation, therefore, was formed in that major urban area, and the bishop resided there. Once, however, missions were started in other towns and cities within that bishop's designated region, it was his responsibility to visit all of them, which eventually proved too taxing, hence the setup we have now. The bishop, however, never left his original flock for a mere ecclesiastical "desk job"; rather he remained a pastor of one particular flock, all the while making pastoral visits and writing epistles to all others under his omophorion (to use a later term) as circumstances allowed.

It should be noted that all of the Apostolic fathers and almost all Pre-Nicean fathers revered by the Church are not presbyters, but bishops; for Z to say that presbyters were the teachers of the early Church seems to fly in the face of what we've received from the fathers themselves...

"I.e., Z suggests that to be true to the original church, the Orthodox church needs more bishops so the local parishes would be true "catholic" churches."

Well, I would heartily agree that we need more bishops, as our current situation (with one man over the entire Southern United States) is ridiculous. One of the greatest advantages that I can see to having administrative unity amongst the various jurisdictions in this continent is the shrinking of (arch)dioceses and the localization and the approximation of the bishop, who is the bond of unity no matter the physical distance.

Nevertheless, I see no need to go all the way back to a "one-bishop-one-parish" model (which evolved into what we have now, in part, because of the Roman transportation system of the Empire; imagine how much less of an inconvenience modern transportation would make smaller dioceses!), just as I don't see the point of doing away with the deaconate. The Church is organic, and one of the things that we must resign ourselves to is that it is not going to operate today as an exact carbon copy of the first-century Church, any more than we as people can be expected to look exactly like our baby pictures. In spite of the evolution, the overall structure will, of course, be readily recognizable, just as we can see ourselves in our baby pictures.

Hope this has helped. When you coming down here again?

Eric Weiss said...

With your lengthy response, I almost owe it to you to print verbatim what Zizioulas wrote (rather than my hopefully-but-not-necessarily-accurate recollection of what he wrote). It's just that he goes on for several pages, but I think this is mainly addressed in Chapter 7 "The Local Church In a Perspective of Communion": (Emphasis is Zizioulas')

"... the creation of the parish as a presbytero-centric unity, not in the original and ecclesiologically correct form which we might describe as "presbyterium-centered," but in the sense of an individual presbyter acting as head of a eucharistic community, damaged ecclesiology serioustly in two respects. On the one hand, it destroyed the image of the Church as a community in which all orders are necessary as constitutive elements. The parish as it finally prevailed in history made redundant both the deacon and the bishop. (Later, with the private mass, it made redundant even the laity.) On the other hand, and as a result of that, it led to an understanding of the bishop as an administrator rather than a eucharistic president, and the presbyter as as "mass-specialist," a "priest" -- thus leading to the medieval ecclesiological decadence in the West, and to the well-known reactions of the Reformation, as well as to a grave confusion in the ecclesiological and canonical life of the Eastern Churches themselves.

"It is for this reason that we should regard the proper ecclesiological status of the parish as one of the most fundamental problems in ecclesiology -- both in the West and in the East. The Orthodox Church, in my understanding at least, has opted for the view that the concept of the local church is guaranteed by the bishop and not by the presbyter: the local Church as an entity with full ecclesiological status is the episcopal diocese and not the parish. By so doing the Orthodox Church has unconsciously brought about a rupture in its own eucharistic ecclesiology. For it is no longer possible to equate every eucharistic celebration with the local Church. But at the same time by so opting it has allowed for the hope to exist for the restoration of the communal nature of the local Church, according to which the local Church can be called ekklêsia (in Greek) only when it is truly catholic, i.e., when it includes (a) the laymen of all cultural, linguistic, social and other identities living in that place, and (b) all the other orders of the Church as parts of that community. Thus one can hope that one day the bishop will find his proper place which is the eucharist, and the rupture in eucharistic ecclesiology caused by the problem "parish-diocese" will be healed in the right way." pp. 250-251

From Chapter 6 "Ministry and Communion":

34 The most important historical factor is the appearance of the parish as a eucharistic gathering distinct from the episcopal eucharistic assembly. This development led to the dissociation of the presbyter from the bishop as well as to the disintegration of the originally collegial presbyterium itself, and hence to the idea that a eucharistic community does not necessarily involve all orders. Cf. J. D. Zizioulas, THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH IN THE EUCHARIST AND THE BISHOP DURING THE FIRST THREE CENTURIES (Athens, 1965), pp. 151-188 and ch. VIII (should be ch. VII) below. Footnote 34 p. 222

- - -

From Chapter 5 "Apostolic Continuity and Succession" p. 198:

"Why did the Church choose the bishop as the instrument of apostolic succession? Why were there, for example, no lists of presbyteral succession? If the concern of the Church was historically to transmit the apostolic doctrine, the natural thing would have been to see this transmission through the presbyters, who were in fact charged precisely with the task of teaching the faith at that time.97

"97 The evidence is abundant, although usually unnoticed by historians. E.g., Shepherd of Hermas, Vis. 3:4; Tertullian, De Praescr. 2; Origen, In Ezekiel 2:2 and Hippolytus, Apost. Trad. 8 (as reconstructed by G. Dix, The Treatise on the Apostolic Tradition of Saint Hippolytus of Rome [1937], p. 13). This is further supported by the existence of famous presbyters known as teachers (Clement of Alexandria, Origen, etc.). For further evidence and a detailed discussion cf. my book THE UNITY ... pp. 160ff. All this shows that the Church of the first centuries did not understand apostolic succession as a succession of teaching. She in fact detested the idea that the Church could be conceived as a "school." See Hippolytus, Philos. 9:12:21.

Emily said...

If I had only known he was visiting!

David Bryan said...

I started a thread on oc DOT net about your question, Eric, and got this response from pensateomnia.

Eric Weiss said...

I posted a response on that thread. Thanks!