Praktikos 1-3

Introduction

The Praktikos is perhaps one of the most famous and popular works of Evagrius of Pontus. There are good reasons for this. Evagrius writes in such a way that engagement with his books can sustain steady spiritual growth over a very long time. To really “read” one of Evagrius’ works is to receive spiritual guidance from one of the Church’s most accomplished spiritual masters of all time. The failure to receive guidance from Evagrius is not usually on his part but on ours. To receive spiritual guidance for spiritual growth one needs to learn to “listen” and it is precisely this listening that is so fundamental to the Father of Western Monasticism: Benedict of Nursia. Let us, whether monastics or not, listen to Evagrius.

Praktikos 1 – 3

The online translation of Evagrius’ Praktikos by Fr. Luke Dysinger Osb translates the first three “chapters” or “sentences” as follows:

  1. CHRISTIANITY is the teaching of our Savior Christ consisting of [:] ascetical practice, the [contemplation of] nature, and theology.

  2. THE Kingdom of Heaven is apatheia (dispassion) of the soul together with true knowledge of beings.

  3. THE Kingdom of God is knowledge of the Holy Trinity, coextensive with the capacity of the nous (mind/intellect) but surpassing it in incorruptibility.

The first thing to notice is that even though Evagrius begins this book with three definitions he does not offer a definition of praktike. In other words he declines to define the primary subject – after which the book is named – of the book. This is an interesting move and should not go unnoticed. In writing a book on spiritual issues it would have made sense to allow your readers to gain some grasp of your point of view by defining how your book will treat and look at the subject. It would make sense to establish clear limits so your readers have a well defined frame of reference within which they can begin to understand the message your book is trying to get across.

Evagrius is doing the opposite. He begins his book with a definition not of praktike but of Christianity. His second chapter is also not a definition of pratike, but rather of physike followed by the third definition of theologike. Pratike will not be defined until much, much later in the book (Praktikos, 78). From the beginning Evagrius lays down that whatever praktike is, it is not a monastic spirituality. Evagrius is not merely addressing ascetic professionals or monks, Evagrius is writing for Christians. Praktike, whatever it may be, is christian spirituality pure and simple. The spiritual growth to which praktike leads: physike and theologike are also not reserved for monks only. The path to physike and theologike are open to all Christians.

Physike & Theologike

If praktike can be said to be the path to physike and theologike, then, what are they? Physike – to put it simply – is mediated knowledge of God. That is we begin to grow intimate with our Creator by means of His creation: God speaks to us in the Bible, in events in our lives, through things in our environment. We begin to perceive creation as a “letter” written by God to us who are far away from Him. God reveals Himself by thigs he has created: thus mediated knowledge of God.

Theologike is different. It too is built on the soul that has been established in praktike, but it is unmediated knowledge of God. No longer does God limit Himself to revealing Himself indirectly, either through nature, events, or even the Bible. All these are presumed, but a new thing emerges: God reveals Himself to us without using “go-betweens.” This is what in Western theology is “the beautific vision” or in Evagrian language: “essential knowledge.”

Praktike is then the way to physike and theologike. Praktike is not defined and – as we shall see – physike and theologike are not exhaustively defined either. Rather what has happened in the first three chapters is that we have been presented with a path we should travel. We have not been given precise definitions of anything, but we have been given some parameters which will enable our journey – a journey back to God with whom we have lost contact.

[to be continued]

Fr. Gregory Wassen

Justification by Faith (pt. iv)

Conclusion of Justification by Faith

So the gift of the Holy Spirit is not regarded by Protestants as something definitely imparted by an external sacramental act which may be done by Christ’s human representatives acting in His Name and Person (as e.g. in Acts), but as an inspiration which any man receives in aswer to his own interior desires, which is guarenteed to him by his own emotional and volitional response. So absolution from sin is for Protestants no longer something to be bestowed or withheld by Christ’s representatives (as in John xx) but something which any individual claims to obtain for himself at need in secret from God. So the Gospel rite of unction of the sick (Mk. iv. 13) has virtually been silently banished from Protestant practice, because the whole idea of God acting in response to or through an ecclesiastical material rite to either to give bodily healing or (still more) healing of the soul by the forgiveness of sins (James v. 15) is repugnant to the essential Protestant principle. Earnest prayer by individuals, i.e. prayer made with great psychological ‘attention’ by those praying, would be the only means to which a sincere Protestant would naturally look for such results.

There is left therefore only the organisation of opportunities for corporate prayer and praise as the main field of Protestant Church life. Corporate worship undoubtedly provides and safeguards those particular ‘values’ which indiviual worship cannot easily supply. But by no means all men equally appreciate the need of those particular ‘values’. If they do not want them or if they can find them for themselves in other ways, there is literally nothing which a Protestant Church can do for them which even a believing and religious man may not feel he can equally well do for himself, and which a spiritually slothful or undisciplined man will not claim to do for himself. The Church in such circumstances can have as such no decisive claim whatever on even the Christian life of its members. So far as individual Christians are concerned, it can only be at best or a convenience of the spiritual life for those who find it so. For others, stronger souls, it is something which they may have a duty to help and support, because it needs them, but which for themselves they could dispense with at will.

It is the same with the Ministry. Since the Sacraments do not cause grace in those who receive them but are only ‘tokens’ that the receivers have obtained grace in another (wholly individual) way, the Sacraments can no longer be conceived of as actions of Christ and His Body the Church (or better, of Christ through His Body the Church) really excercising His redemptive work on the receivers. They are actions of the receivers themselves, and only of them. Their administration is a set of ecclesiastical occasions for the edification of individual Christians, many or few, at which these can and should ecxercise their won faith and piety. There is therefore no need, nor indeed possibility, of a ‘priesthood’, of men authorised (as others are not) to act in the Name of Christ and His whole Church to perform these corporate actions of the Body towards individual members. The commission of the Christian Ministry is wholly other than this. They are men set apart to fulfil the function of proclaiming the fact of the Redemption accomplished in the first century A.D., which challenges individuals to make the saving act of faith. This is what the Church is for, and its Minsitry is essentially only a preaching ministry. As Luther said, Ordination is a ‘solemn ceremony for the appointment of public preachers in the Church’. Since the celebration of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper is in fact only a species of preaching by symbolical actions, it is fitting that they should normally be conducted by those to whom the preaching office is committed. But in doing this they excercise no supernatural power or authority from Christ and His Church which other Christians have not received. All Christians are ‘priests’ (1 Pet. ii. 5). Any confinement of the performance of these actions to the ordained ministers is only for the purpose of seemliness in their administration and the good order of the Christian society. This is the classical Protestant conception of the Minsitry. (But it is right to say that all Calvinists have always laid much more emphasis on the disciplinary authority of those set apart for the discharge of the preaching ministry than have the Lutherand and Independents. And, in Scotland especially, Presbyterians since the seventeenth century have recovered from the Catholic tradition a definite doctrine that minesterial authority is derived from God by their ordination at the hands of othet ministers, and not from the Church by the fact of their choice by the congregation.)

You will see, I hope, how central is the doctrine of ‘Justification by faith alone’ in the whole of Protestant conception of Christianity, and how directly all the rest of the Protestant system flows from it, so that if that is removed the other ideas are left as it were rootless – mere negations.

Dom Gregory Dix OSB

Justification by Faith (Pt. iii)

Part iii of Justification by Faith by Dom Gregory Dix

Thus Protestantism retained the idea of the Church, despite its awkwardness in the Protestant scheme of thought. But the New Testament idea as the ‘Body of Christ’, not only His instrument to proclaim His Gospel, but His Body, one with Him, living with His life, holy with His holiness, energising with His Spirit, so that her worship is His worship of His Father, her mission is His mission to men, her faith is His unclouded vision of God, her action is His Redemption – all this was fatally impoverished. In the New Testament the Church is the ‘fulfilment of Christ (Eph. 1, 23) without which He Himself is incomplete and fruitless, but with which and through which alone He is ‘Redeemer’. A doctrine of ‘Redemption’ which had no logical place for all this, which made the Church only the secondary instrument of a Redemption which is completed in the recesses of the individual’s own mind, in essential independence of the life of Christ in the Church and through the Church, such a doctrine was something artificial and new. It could not regard the Church as the ‘organism’ of Christ, a life into which one must be incorporated to live in Christ at all. It was bound to regard the Church at best as an ‘organisation’ to serve Christ. And there was no sufficient reason why it should not be regarded as ultimately a purely ‘voluntary organisation’ for that end, with which the ‘Justified’ individual could dispense entirely if it did not seem to him to be serving that end; or which he could refashion to do so as seemed to him good, in order the better to proclaim the Gospel as he himself had found it in the Scriptures. In any case such an ‘organisation’ has and can have no further claims on his obedience than he himself chooses to give it.

You see once more how central in Protestantism is its doctrine of ‘Justification’. It leads directly and inevitably to the typical Protestant conception of ‘the Church’, as something to which a man adheres in so far as he finds it helpful to his personal religious life, not as something which embodies the God-given ‘redeemed’ life of souls into which each individual must come to share that life. You see, too, how it leads directly to the untrammelled religious individualism and the insensitiveness to schism which mark Protestant Church life. It leads, too, to the repudiation of all final authoritative standards of doctrine other than ‘the Scriptures’, and these uninterpreted. For the Church’s mission is only to ‘proclaim’  the self-sufficient Scriptures, and no human ecclesial authority can be allowed decisively to limit their meaning by imposing its own particular interpretation upon them.

It is the same with the Sacraments. Few other Protestants have had the courageous logic of the Quakers in simply disregarding the facts that our Lord instituted certain external or material signs, actions and forms for His followers, and that the New Testament plainly attributes to these operative significance in the life of grace. They were retained by most Protestants, but emptied of their Scriptural significance as signs which cause what they signify, and regarded instead as mere ‘tokens’ (either to the receiver himself or even other people) of a grace received wholly independently of them by psychological operations of the believer’s own mind. It is no wonder that in course of time they have sunk to the position of ‘optional appendages’ to the practice of Protestant piety.

Thus the rite of baptism is no longer for most modern Protestants what it is in the New Testament, the actual ‘putting on’ of Christ, the ‘incorporation’ into Him, so that the baptised are truly ‘one with’, ‘members of’ Him. So far as this mystical union is envisaged, it is attributed to the act of faith or to ‘conversion’. Thus it is not baptism which makes a man a ‘member’ of most Protestant Churches, or even the fact of being a communicant, but his own voluntary ‘adherence’. And his reception of these ordinances is nowadays regarded as an optional element in that adherence. Such use as he chooses to make of them is a consequence, not a cause, of his life and membership in that Church; and most English Protestant bodies no longer limit their administration of them strictly to their own ‘adherents’, but welcome to them any ‘believer’ who may present himself to them. Any other view would be incompatible with ‘Justification by faith alone’; for any other view there would be in such sacramental actions an element of human co-operation, of man’s own ‘good works’ combinig with the divinely-given confidence in the finished sacrifice of Christ, to bring about this ‘Justification’ and Sanctification. On the Protestant principles this is wholly inadmissible.

To be continued – and finished

Justification by Faith (ii)

Part II from Dom Gregory Dix on Justification by Faith

I have put it briefly, because I have no intention of criticising it here or of pointing out its great differences from the Catholic doctrine of Justification, except under one aspect. (I will only say in passing that it is a one-sided deduction from parts of St. Paul’s teaching, and that it is partly a development of and partly a reaction against teaching on the subject which was current during the fifteenth century mediaeval Latin Church, which we are always apt to forget was the nursing mother of all the Reformers.) But this root-idea of Protestantism had many consequences and ramifications, though, it has in itself – granted its catastrophic premises – a majestic and logical simplicity – too simple indeed to be adequate either to the profundity of the New Testament or the complexity of fallen human nature. All I want to point here is that it denied that thorough ‘renewal of the inward man’ by the action of God’s grace as a consequence of Redemption by Christm with which the New Testament fairly rings and thunders. And it left out altogether the ideas of the Church and the Sacraments from the whole operation of Redemption and sanctification.

Augsburg Confession

True, Protestants could not help seeing that the New Testament represents our Lord as having instituted the Church, and appointed His Apostles to act in the Church in His Name and Person. It also records that he deliberately ordered and instituted certain external actions and signs for His followers as having a vital relation to their being His. Neither of these facts was easily reconcilable with the doctrine of ‘Justification by faith alone’, which insisted not only that man needed nothing more but actually could do nothing more than know the story of Redemption in the first century A.D. and put his entire trust in that. Yet the New Testament made it impossible not to retain the Church and the Sacraments in some sense. Protestants therefore kept them both, but they were forced to empty them of much of their Scriptural meaning.

The idea of ‘the Church’ was reduced to the only one compatible with Protestantism – it was regarded chiefly as the divinely founded society for continually proclaiming the history of Redemption as it had happened long ago on Judea, and so challenging every individual in other ages and countries that first-century Palestine to make that personal act of faith which alone saves. The only necessary equipment for such a tasl was of course the authoritative account of how Redemption had actually happened – the Gospels – and the authoritative explanation of it and commentary upon it in the Old Testament and the other Apostolic writings. This alone was what could provoke the saving act of faith in individuals, and the Church existed to thrust it upon their individual notice. You see how directly the doctrine of ‘Justification by faith alone’ led to the idea of ‘the Bible and the Bible alone religion of the Protestants’. If the Church was necessary to present the Bible in every generation, yet the Church existed for the Bible, not the Bible for the Church. (In point of fact the Church had existed before the Bible and had compiled the Bible and authorised the Bible. Between 150 and 200 A.D. the Church began to select those particular documents which now make up our Bible out of many others, Jewish and Christian then in circulation, all professing to be more or less authoritative. These alone were after that to be received by the Church as ‘inspired’ and authoritative ‘Scriptures’. The ‘Old Testament’ was a selection from books then currently accepted as ‘Scripture’ among the Jews. The grounds for inclusion in the ‘New Testament’ were partly historical – evidence that these particular documents had genuinely come down from the Apostolic age and their competitors had not; partly doctrinal – that these documents agreed with the standard Christian teaching which had been going on in the Church ever since the Apostolic age, and their competitors did not. Thus there was a time when the teaching of the Church had been quite independent of our present Bible, viewed as a collection; and there was also a time when the documents of the Bible had been judged by the teaching of the Church and not vice versa. This was really fatal to the Protestant view both of the Bible and the Church. But the facts were not all known in the sixteenth century, and those that were known were ignored.)

To be continued

“Justification by Faith” (Pt. i)

… an excerpt from a letter (published in The Question of Anglican Orders: Letters to a Layman) by the Anglo Catholic theologian Dom Gregory Dix:

[The differences between Protestant ans Catholic accounts of Christianity are] not, as we often pretend, to be found in such questions as whether the Body and Blood of Christ are or are not substantially present in the consecrated Sacrament of the Altar (Luther, the original Protestant, sided with the Catholics on that point against the Protestants) or whether others besides Bishops can ordain, or whether we ought to say the Hail Mary or use incense in church, or the other side-issues on which English Protestants and Catholics usually concentrate. These things are only superficial symptoms. The really profound differences – and they are very profound indeed – all centre around the word ‘Justification’. One does not often hear it mentioned to-day in religious arguments or even in serious theological discussions. But when the Reformation was actually happening – in the sixteenth century – that word provided the dynamite for the whole terrific explosion. Everey Protestant leader insisted time and again that this and this alone was ‘the article of a standing or a falling in the church’, and that in comparison with this no other point in controversy was of final importance. (This would still be the case now, if Protestantism had not so greatly changed from its original principles during th nineteenth century.)

‘Justification’ is the technical term for the fundamental process in the religious life of any Christian man or woman: i.e. that by which fallen man, a creature born in a state of alienation from God and therefore prone to sin, unable of himself altogether to avoid actually sinning to some extent in this life, is through redemption by Christ brought into union with an infinitely holy God, to serve Him in righteousness, to love Him with his whole being and ultimately to enjoy Him eternally. You will see that this concerns the very heart of the Christian religion – and it was about this that Protestants and Catholics differed violently in the sixteenth century. How does the ‘Justification’ of the sinner through Christ happen?

The Protestant answer was unanimous and simple. It happened through a man’s total surrender to one particular idea and to the emotion it evoked; it happened entirely and completely inside a man’s own mind. Protestantism sprang from a radically and unrelieved pessimistic estimate of human nature. This was the personal invention of Martin Luther but it became the common presupposition of all Protestant teaching. Luther taught and Protestantism believed that man is totally and incurably corrupted in his nature by the effects of ‘original sin’, and that his ‘original sin’ is to be simply identified with ‘concupiscence’, i.e. with that susceptibility to temptation which we all know in ourselves. If this identification is accepted, there is no hiding the fact from ourselves that this ‘total corruption’ always persists in us, even in the ‘justified’ and those who appear to be leading and trying to lead a holy life. It is so irremediable, so ‘total’, that even a man’s apparently ‘good works’ are in themselves in the eyes of God damnably sinful. Nothing that a man can do in itself ever have the least value in the eyes of God, on this theory.

Man has therefore but one hope of salvation. God the Father sent His only Son to become Man and be crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem in the first century A.D.; thus He offered the one, true, perfect, sufficient and complete sacrifice to atone for all human sin. To the end of time anyone, however sinful, who believes and fully accepts that fact, and trusts altogether and only to the merit of that sacrifice, is forthwith ‘Justified’ in the sights of God. He needs nothing more, can do nothing more, than be conscious of feeling of confidence, for it is all that stands in between him and eternal torment. Yet even so, he cannot really undo the terrible effects of ‘original sin’ in his soul. The fact that he feels this confidence does not render anything he does or could do in itself pleasing to God. he is not in any way made holy even by ‘justifying faith’; otherwise his own actions would aid in his own redemption and sanctification; grace would no more be the absolutely free gift of God, but something man had at least partially ‘merited’. He is therefore emphatically not made holy but simply ‘accounted holy’ by God, for the sake of Christ, Whose righteousness is ‘imputed to’ the believing sinner by God through a sort of fiction. But in himself the redeemed and ‘justified’ sinner remaisn an entirely sinful sinner still,a nd only the consciousness of his own faith in the redeeming merits of Christ stands between him and the damnation his own inescapable sinfulness entails.  That is the famous doctrine of ‘Justification by faith alone’, which in the eyes of all Protestants was the very essence of Protestantism. ‘Justification’ was a matter of surrendering unconditionally to that one idea, something any individual can do – but can only do – for himself alone, in the absolute isolation of his own mind and heart.

( To be continued )

Ways to Church Reunion (III)

Part III and conclusion to Ways to Church Reunion

There still remains another point, namely, that of the canonical nature of any Reunion achieved through Eucharistic fellowship. There is a firm conviction that Reunion can only be the act of higher ecclesiastical authority. Possibly this may be true as regards complete Reunion of entire Church bodies, a reunion which is as yet outside historical relaity. Even so, such a Reunion from above, a so-called diplomatic Reunion, would have to acquire sanction from the body of Church people, which may even refuse to accept it. Generally speaking, the above point of view can only be accepted logically to the Roman Catholic Church, in which one can say that the voice of the Pope is the voice of the Church, but otherwise such a theory is quite out of place both for the Orthodox and the Anglican hierarchy. Within the same Church we find different sections and people, who even differ from one another dogmatically (as in the Anglican “comprehensiveness”). Even to a greater extent is this true of theological thought and cultural level. To expect, therefore, complete uniformity before Reunion is possible would be completely fruitless and unnecessary. Why cannot separate parts or groups belonging to the different Church bodies – Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican – unite in Intercommunion, if this actually expresses their true dogmatic and Church relationship?

One more objection might be raised here which has become stereotyped in the course of centuries and has trned into a real superstition – viz., that Eucharistic fellowship with the non-Orthodox impairs the priesthood and Sacraments of the entire Church, if any members of that Church enter into such communion. This would be even more true in a case of communion say with the Anglo-Catholics, for through them the Orthodox would enter into communion with Evangelicals and the Modernists, in so far as all the members of the Anglican Church are in communion with one another. Therefore, it is argued, such Intercommunion woud be impossible for the Orthodox. We feel that such prejudice is exaggerated if not absolutely incorrect. Actually the entire Christian world in a certain sense is in communion in so far as this concerns the Sacrament of baptism, which is recognized by all. Nevertheless, through this its priesthood is not impaired. One must interpret the power of priesthood in a much deeper and bolder way, so as not to be able to fear its being impaired through Eucharistric intercommunionwith those of the non-Orthodox who can truly participate in it sacramentally. Therefore group or partial intercommunion does not threaten the integrity of the priesthood in the participants, as it never impaired the priesthood of the Orthodox, who remained in intercommunion with the Roman Catholics for a long time after the schism of 1054. But this type of communion can only be canonically justified through the consent and blessing of the appropriate ruling bishop, for the fulness of the sacraments is concentrated in the bishop, and no priest can celebrate the Sacraments who has severed the link with his bishop. Actually the Church is a union of bishoprics, but every ‘cell,’ that is diocese, lives also with its own special life, though in contact with the others. Consequently, it is all a question of fact. Will a diocese be found in which the corresponding groups of persons could enter into Eucharistic Communion, within the realm of Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, and also of Roman Catholicism? It is a question of the limits of Church centralism. Do the bishops form independent centres, though ones which are co-ordinated with one another? Or, is there only one centre, the episcopus episcoporum, the Pope, who may be one person, or a collective? (The last two alternatives are the same for our particular problem.) A partial, or local union of different Church bodies in the Eucharist, their organic merging, might serve as a mystical and religious foundation for the Reunion of the Churches, which is vainly expected along the paths of canonical and dogmatic Church diplomacy alone. Meanwhile it is important to make a beginning with Church Reunion in those points where it is possible, and so ultimately to carry the problem forward beyond the existing deadlock which our sinful fear and indifference has produced.

# # # #

Ways to Church Reunion (II)

Part II of Ways to Church Reunion

 

There is no doubt that in the course of ages quite a number of dogmatic differences have emerged between the Western and the Eastern Church, although all these are not of equal significance. There are the questions of Filioque, of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, of Purgatory, of the Pope, and all the other dogmatic definitions of a doctrinal nature which have come to be accepted by the Catholic West (and following in its steps, to some extent Orthodoxy), in its struggle with the Reformation. In this Roman

Filioque?
Filioque?

Catholicism is distinguished by the greatest dogmatic maximum in so far as it attempts to transform every thesis of theological doctrine into dogma (an example of this may be seen in the Council of Trent). In such a method all doctrinal postulates acquire equal significance. One should learn to abandon such dogmatic prejudice when striving towards Reunion, if one ceases to interpret it, of course, as absorption of individual Christians either by the Orthodox or the Roman Catholic Church. In the general context of dogmatic differences which exist between the Churches, we must learn to discern the essentially important dogmatic teaching which finds its expression in the Eucharistic dogma, and contrast it with other dogmatic assumptions which should be set aside as calling for further consideration and elaboration as theologoumena. And we must also have faith that a union in Eucharistic love before the holy Chalice will give us greater power to overcome them, than tournaments between theologians which never result in complete union, for the ‘human,’ the all to human, always dominates them.

It is also unfortunate for the Church that from the most ancient times it has acquired the method of stating dogma in the form of anathemas against those who think differently, whilst a hasty anathema always represents an unnecessary further obstacle to discussion. The idea of a dogmatic agreement in necessaeriis for the purpose of Eucharistic union, which precedes complete dogmatic agreement instead of succeeding it, does not by any means imply dogmatic indifference. But in the question of dogmatics a certain hierarchy of order should be maintained, by virtue of which things should be put in their proper places. One cannot, for instance, assign to the doctrine of transsubstantiation the same compulsory significance as to the Christological and Trinitarian dogma. (The same remark would be true of the majority of the definitions of Trent, which so obviously bear the imprint of Medieval Scholasticism.) We have a whole series of dogmatic definitions which really possess only the significance of theological doctrine. They are valuable in their intention, but certainly not in the form of their expression. In relation to these, for the time being, the principle of in dubiis libertas should be applied.

But we may find that some may argue that the drawing of such distinction between dogmas, their classification as Eucharistic and non-Eucharistic, the more important and the less important, would serve to undermine the infallibility and self-sufficiency of the Church (infallibilitas or indefectibilitas), in which all is equally important and valuable, by introducing an intolerable relativity. Such an objection is based on an abstract Roman interpretation of infallibilitas. This should really be understood not as formal abstraction but as something historically concrete. The Church possesses indefectibilitas in the sense that the Church is complete or self-sufficient. In this sense with a divinely inspired infallibility it meets the needs of its dogmatic consciousness in every epoch. Thus early Christianity, notwithstanding all its dogmatic simplicity and the fact that dogma had not been expressed, was no less indefectibilis, than the later dogmatic epochs, each of which has its own particular style. This style is comprised not only of the postulates which are of abiding value (such as Christology) even when they are expressed in the dogmatic language of a particular epoch, but also of those propositions which minister par excellence to the specific requirements of that age. Revelation, generally speaking, is concrete and historical, but it certainly does not represent a mechanical dictation of infallible truths, nor a sort of automatic script. Therefore it is absurd to accept that an abstract equipollence of all the parts of dogmatic teaching in accordance with a formal stamp of ‘infallibility,’ because the former is conveyed to us ‘at sundry times, and in divers manners’ (Heb. i. I).

Ex Cathedra
Ex Cathedra

In Roman-Catholicism the main barrier to the establishment of such a preliminary dogmatic minimum – the Eucharistic dogma in the extended sense – is represented by the Vatican dogma of Papal infallibility. This dogma in itself constitutes a sort of dogmatic microcosm of Roman Catholicism, a criterion for all Roman dogmatics, which attributes its own peculiar significance to any dogmatic definition. In practice this dogma constitutes the main barrier to Reunion, for it turns Reunion into a simple absorption by the Roman Church. Its rejection makes reunion with Rome impossible, while it is unreserved and unconditional acceptance is impossible for the non-Roman Catholic. Therefore the destinies of the Reunion with Rome depend on how far the Roman Church would wish it and would find it possible to consider its Vatican dogma among those which should be subjected to a soborny investigation as regards its relationship to the whole of the Universal Church. In relationships between the Orthodox and the Anglicans, of course, this Vatican barrier is non-existent.

To be Continued