EPILOGUE

 

EPILOGUE

IN SUMMARIZING all that has been said above, we should emphasize that our writers begin with the specific ecclesiological and canonical presuppositions that we stated in the beginning. Remaining faithful to the principle set by Sts. Cyprian and Basil the Great, they side in favor of applying acrivia in receiving the various heretics; in other words, their (re)baptism. Of course, they do not deny the possible use of economia.322 But, in the spirit of the Second (and Penthekte) Ecumenical Council, this is done “when it does not vitally harm” the Church, according to Oikonomos;323 in other words, when the irrevocable stipulation set by these Ecumenical Councils is fulfilled: namely, that the sacrament of baptism has been administered in accordance with the Apostolic form. The use of economia, having a provisional and local character, does not do away with acrivia which constitutes the Church’s canonical order. Therefore, “the one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church of the Orthodox, having their salvation in view, both preserves the acrivia of the divine Canons, and also at various times and places apostolically resorts to economia, so as to receive those infirm in the faith, and to take care of incidental needs and difficulties, while avoiding incursions by the adversaries of Orthodoxy, until such time as she again restores acrivia.”324

Our writers follow the same approach as those who were of the opposite mind and who classified the later heterodox (Latins) with those early heretics who, according to Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council, could be received without (re)baptism. They, too, apply the same Canon to the same heretics, only to arrive at the opposite conclusion, namely the rejection of economia in the case of the Latins. For in no way can their “aspersion” be considered baptism. And thus, faltering as regards the manner of the sacrament, they are classified under the proscriptive stipulation: “with only one immersion.”  Our writers defend this view canonically, historically, and dogmatically.

This position of theirs regarding the West cannot, in our judgement, be considered the product of prejudice or religious intolerance,325 but the result of their purely Orthodox mind and their devotion to the faith and tradition of their Church. Aware of the West’s penchant for innovations326 and the alteration of the Church’s tradition that was accomplished there with the passage of time, they fear that any and every concession could lead not only the West, but the East as well, to even greater errors.327 The application of acrivia, being canonically justified, guards Orthodoxy from slips of any kind.328 Our writers appear to be absolutely convinced that in this way the issue is decisively resolved.

Nevertheless, diversity does exist in the Church’s practice, and they cannot ignore this. To be sure, their intent is that the Church be led to exercise acrivia on the West. But this means that they, too, wished for a single manner of action, the attainment of agreement among the local Orthodox Churches, and the elimination of the noticeable irregularity. In other words, our writers as well as their opponents were in favor of a pan-Orthodox settlement of this problem. We also know that the necessity for a pan-Orthodox synodal decision has been judged urgent even after our writers.329 In 1875, the Ecumenical Patriarchate expressed the wish “that the local Orthodox Churches might assemble together, [so that] the longed for official agreement on this issue might come to pass.”330  Since then, it has been repeatedly maintained by distinguished writers that a synodal settlement of the problem is necessary.331

From among our writers, Neophytos and Oikonomos deal with the idea of a pan-Orthodox settlement of the issue. The former touches upon the subject in passing, responding to the objection propounded at the time: “We should not abominate their (i.e. the Latins’) aspersion prior to a Council.”  His reply is taken from the discourses of St. Athanasios on the Arians, and it is as follows: “…more capable than all men (and all Councils) is divine Scripture, and it requires those who believe in Christ not to be sprinkled, but baptized. ‘And if a Council is needed concerning this,’ says Athanasios, ‘we have the works of the Fathers.’ And indeed they were not remiss in this regard, but they wrote so adequately, that those who genuinely read their definitions are therefrom able to recall the truth proclaimed in the divine Scriptures. Therefore, concerning what is clear, there need be no Council assembled for what is sought.”332 So, according to Neophytos, no Council is necessary. Besides, it could not overturn the Church’s already well-known decision anyway.

Discussion about a synodal resolution of the problem was repeatedly heard during the disputes of the eighteenth century when Cyril V was Patriarch. And in Oikonomos’ time, this need was judged extremely urgent and was advocated chiefly by the supporters of economia. For, as far as the supporters of acrivia were concerned (our writers included), the Church had already resolved the issue. In this spirit, Oikonomos writes the following: “and even when, by divine summons and in Christ’s name, for the union of the Churches, such an Ecumenical Council does convene, it shall lay down and delimit all those things that contribute to the bond of divine love and peace in the Holy Spirit (the arrogance of the innovation having disappeared like smoke)333 …and this Ecumenical Council shall order…nothing in any way contrary (perish the thought!) or opposed…to the Canons concerning the divine dogmas and sacraments and the ecclesiastical order as a whole, which have been laid down by the Apostles and by our holy Fathers, illumined by one and the same Spirit in the Councils whereby God spoke.”334  For it cannot “legislate that the aspersions and affusions can accomplish the same things as the one and only true baptism.”335

This allows us to presume that if Roman Catholicism returns to the canonical manner of baptizing, then the use of economia would not be ruled out by Oikonomos (and, cum grano salis, even by the other Kollyvades). However, this ought to be decided on a pan-Orthodox level. This is what is meant by the following very significant words of Oikonomos: “If the Council deems it necessary for the Church in certain places (such as a large country comprised of many and diverse heretical ethnic groups), for the sake of evangelical economia, to consent for a short time to something that ought not to be (as Evlogios once said), and opportunely exercises a certain concession towards those who come over from heresies when any of them sincerely desire to enter life, but become less willing because of the acrivia of the Canon; in any case, the Church of Christ shall do what is deemed best, inasmuch as her Bridegroom remains with her inseparably until the end of time. He it is who preserves the acrivia of the divine dogmas and sacraments blameless and unadulterated in her, and Who enlightens her and guides her in the exercise of economia, in the proper place and time, towards those who join from without.”336  Of course, such an acceptance of Latin baptism by economia would in no way signify the validity of it “in itself,” but only by virtue of the conversion of the Roman Catholic to Orthodoxy. Needless to say, the Papists’ obdurate (as shown above) persistance in their innovations makes the exercise of any economia in the future questionable.

We believe that the following confession by C. Oikonomos ultimately articulates the spirit of the Kollyvades as well, and at the same time sums up their teaching: “We…praying night and day for the union of the Churches, accept and honor every economia as long as it does not harm our one mother the Church. We also have the salvation of her Orthodox sons in view, following in the footsteps of our blessed Fathers and teachers of the Church.”337

The theological dispute described above might easily be characterized by many today as futile, or at least excessively scholastic. Ultimately, it is nothing less than a fight to guard the continuity of the tradition, and to repulse the modernistic spirit of the West, using the particular means of a specific time.

What might be stated as a final conclusion based on the teaching of the Ecumenical Councils and the holy Fathers, which teaching our writers so lucidly and thoroughly present, is that for the conversion (i.e. entrance) to Orthodoxy of Latins and Western Christians in general, economia may be exercised only in such cases when a Christian Confession administered baptism with trine immersion and emersion according to its Apostolic and patristic form. When, on the other hand, this is not the case, but rather, despite knowing the truth, the innovation of aspersion or affusion was employed in a non-Orthodox manner (cf. relevant decision of Vatican II), then acrivia is judged mandatory.

Especially in our day when everything is considered relative, even in the ecclesiastical domain, persistance in the tradition of the Saints is the most substantial counteraction against the general decline, even if such a position I ridiculed as lacking love. True love is the love for the truth in Christ.

 

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