“A REMINDER OF GOD’S VISITATION” — SACRED WOUNDS ON THE BODIES OF ST. MACRINA AND ST. FRANCIS by Kevin Elphick

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St. Francis of Assisi and St. Macrina the Younger

While separated by over 800 years, St. Macrina the Younger (324-379) and St. Francis of Assisi (1182 -1226) have surprisingly similar descriptions of marks left on their bodies and made known upon their deaths. St. Francis’ wounds—the marks of the stigmata on his hands, feet, and side—are much more commonly known and written about. Less well known is the scar left on St. Macrina’s side from a tumor healed miraculously by prayers with her mother.

While hagiographies abound describing the wounds suffered by martyrs at their deaths, far less common are hagiographical accounts in which miraculous wounds from earlier in a saint’s life are revealed upon his or her death. This article will limit its focus to the accounts describing these wounds in Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Macrina and Thomas of Celano’s writings on the life of St. Francis. Read More


A RESPONSE TO THE VATICAN II DECREE ON EASTERN CHURCHES* by Alexander Schmemann

We are sharing Father Alexander Schmemann’s brief 1966 commentary as a springboard for frank, brotherly dialogue between Roman Catholics, Eastern Catholics, and Orthodox. What relevance do his remarks continue to have, or not, more than half a century later? How do we respond, in particular, to the ongoing concerns of the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches on these complex issues?

Language that some may find offensive or outdated should be considered from the vantage of the era in which this response was written.

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It is not easy for an Orthodox to express his views on this particular Decree for the simple yet important reason that the very existence of the “Uniate” Eastern Catholic Churches has always been considered by the Orthodox as one of the major obstacles to any sincere theological confrontation with the Roman Catholic Church.

The Orthodox appreciate, to be sure, the efforts made in these last years by some spiritual leaders of these communities to represent and voice within the Roman Catholic Church the Eastern tradition as a whole, efforts which were especially obvious at the Council itself and which no doubt greatly contributed to the basic orientation of the present Decree. But for the sake of true ecumenical understanding, it must be stressed that for the Orthodox there remains in this whole question of uniatism a deep ambiguity, to which all Orthodox are extremely sensitive and which must have a high priority on the ecumenical agenda of the future.

There can be no doubt as to the positive, irenic, and constructive intentions of the Decree as a whole. It is one more step, and a decisive one, toward the recognition of the Eastern tradition as “equal in dignity” to that of the West. Of utmost importance is its emphasis on the temporary character of its provisions— “until such time as the Catholic Church and the separated Eastern Churches come together into complete unity.” This seems to indicate a rather significant shift in the very understanding of the function of the Eastern Catholic communities called now to serve as bridges to, rather than substitutes for, the Orthodox East. Read More


ΕΑΝ ΕΠΙΛΑΘΩΜΑΙ ΣΟΥ, ΙΕΡΟΥΣΑΛΗΜ / SI OBLITUS FUERO TUI, IERUSALEM / IF I FORGET THEE, O JERUSALEM: AN ANALYSIS OF POPE FRANCIS’ UNNOTICED ECUMENICAL GESTURE by Liam Farrer

forgetThose who remember the hostility between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches prior to the 1964 meeting between His All-Holiness, Athenagoras I and His Holiness, Blessed Paul VI—and even those of us who have only heard of it via history—must acknowledge that the evolution of the relationship between the two Churches in the years since has been nothing short of remarkable.

Still, despite what His Beatitude Sviatoslav, Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, referred to last year as a “positive” change of emphasis in interaction, it is clear that an atmosphere of  mistrust still remains.  

Take, for example, the fact that  Orthodox Archpriest Leonid Kishkovsky felt the need to clarify that the Orthodox had not accepted papal primacy after the 2007 Ravenna Dialogue; or, that Catholic Father Mark Drew’s 2017 article on the 2016 statement of the Joint Orthodox-Catholic Commission for Theological Dialogue, while painting a balanced and nuanced picture of the Catholic positions, described the Orthodox position as talk of Rome “abandoning her errors and returning to Orthodoxy.” Read More


THE EVER-VIRGINITY OF THE THEOTOKOS by Giacomo Sanfilippo

 

With this brief reflection the editors wish our readers a blessed and joyful feast of the Nativity of the Most-Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.

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Η Φλεγόμενη Βάτος – The Burning Bush

Liturgically in the Orthodox Church we address the Theotokos—Θεοτόκος, Богородица, Născătoare de Dumnezeu, “Birth-Giver of God” (Dei Genitrix in Latin)—not only as the Virgin Mary, but as the Ever-Virgin Mary: ἀειπάρθενος, приснодева, pururea fecioara.  

The ever-virginity of the Mother of God, iterated and reiterated times without number in the lex orandi of the Orthodox Church, thus comprises an indispensable element of our lex credendi. This is to say not only that the Theotokos remains ever-virgin before, during, and after giving birth to the God-man Jesus Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit without male intervention—the meaning of the three stars on her forehead and shoulders in her icons—but that it must be so. It cannot be otherwise. Her ever-virginity constitutes not only a dogmatic imperative, but first and foremost a scriptural imperative.

Scripturally, Mary and the Righteous Joseph the Betrothed could not possibly have gotten down to the business of sexual intercourse and having children after the pre-eternal God of the universe, Who called all things visible and invisible from non-existence into being, Who dwells in unapproachable light, Who walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob Who spoke as the nameless and unnameable One-Who-Is (ὁ ὤν in His halo) from the burning bush, Who sits enthroned upon the cherubim, before Whom the seraphim cover their faces in holy fear as they fly back and forth crying aloud Holy! Holy! Holy! had come forth from her virginal womb as a newborn human child—her own Creator, cradled in her arms and suckling at her breasts—making her and her body “more honourable than the cherubim” and “more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim.” Read More


THE PAPPAS PATRISTIC SUMMER INSTITUTE: AN ECUMENICAL READING COMMUNITY by John Solheid

pappas_PIDuring the academic year 2016-17, I was continually reflecting on William A. Johnson’s concept of “reading communities” (Johnson, Readers and Reading Culture in the High Roman Empire: A Study of Elite Communities, 2010). Naturally, as a student of Patristics, I focused my attention on how this concept applies to communities in the early Church.  However, from July 31 until August 5 of this year, I participated in the annual Pappas Patristic Institute held at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline MA.  This was the second time I participated in the program, after attending in 2015, but missing 2016.  This year I left with a greater appreciation not only for how “reading communities” function, but also for the vital role of the shared reading of texts both in the life of the Church and in the spiritual development of my soul.

In order for a reading community to materialize, the group must share some common beliefs about the texts being read.  In particular, the community must have a common belief about what texts are important to read, why those texts are important to read, and how those texts function to create a sense of communal identity (Johnson, 12-16). 

The Pappas Patristic Institute possesses all those characteristics.  All the participants share a common belief that the Church Fathers are important to read.  We also share a common belief that the Fathers are important to read because, as the foundations of the Christian tradition, they continue to have relevance and meaning for today.  Read More


A REFLECTION FROM DOWN UNDER: REFUGEES, ECUMENISM, AND ORTHODOX ENGAGEMENT by Dennis Ryle

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I am an ordained Churches of Christ* minister in Australia who has experienced engagement with refugee resettlement and advocacy over the most part of four decades. Various congregations I have served have led the housing, equipping, and orientation of families from Vietnam, Laos, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We have befriended those whose faith backgrounds have been Buddhist, Catholic, Orthodox, and Islamic.  Where possible and appropriate, we have eventually been able to refer families and individuals to their own faith communities.

This ministry—which only nibbles at the edge of the growing world refugee crisis—is necessarily ecumenical, pooling the resources of churches through the Australian National Council of Churches and what is now its National Refugee Task Force. A number of Eastern Christian Churches are represented on the Council: the Antiochian Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Indian Orthodox Church, the Mar Thoma Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Serbian Orthodox Church, and the Syrian Orthodox Church. [Editors’ note: Notably absent from the list is the Russian Orthodox Church’s Australian and New Zealand Diocese.] Read More


THE MOTHER WHO BIRTHS A SPLIT MIND by John Tzavelas

This thoughtful but somewhat cryptic essay draws attention to an issue that many feel is insufficiently acknowledged, often swept under the carpet: the pastoral malfeasance and psychic harm that many experience at the hands of the mother they love—the Church.

Theodore Lidz was an American psychiatrist who did his most compelling work in the field of schizophrenia in the 1950s and 1960s. What made Lidz’s research especially compelling was that he postulated that the primary causal factor of a mind that had been diagnosed with schizophrenia was the familial environment in which this mind was reared. If he saw the early signs of schizophrenia in a person young enough, he would explore the collective psychic environment of the family unit. Although he didn’t introduce the term, Lidz took the idea of the “schizophrenogenic mother” and spent decades explicating and exploring the concept.

mirrorThis schizophrenogenic mother—meaning “the mother who births a split mind”—had two primary characteristics: the first was that she showed signs of being both deeply disturbed as well as difficult and unengaging; the second was that she projected exaggeratedly limiting beliefs onto her children and even her spouse, and she only felt safe when their behavior and self-conception (ego) matched her own flawed conception of them, because it was within those waters that she felt safest to navigate.

Lidz refused to label schizophrenia as a permanent mental illness because he considered it to be a reactive state of the mind caused by needing to subsist in a psychically unhealthy environment. Further, he believed that this reactive state of mind could be healed.

More importantly, however, Lidz also refused to demonize these schizophrenogenic mothers, insisting that more care and energy go into the healing of the family unit together rather than isolating psyches and feeding them neurochemical reactors. Many of Lidz’s ideas achieved mainstream consideration within the psychiatric community, but were quickly dismissed as the field evolved to accept neurobiological imbalances as the primary factor in explaining mental illness. Read More