Monday, June 16, 2014

Orthodox Constructions of the West (Fordham University Press)

Christian East and Christian West have been at odds with each other since The Great Schism, if not sooner. There has been finger-pointing, name-calling, and general animosity between these two divisions. We have made great strides in talks of ecumenism thanks to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and recent Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. However, there is still a great deal of misunderstanding and misconceptions on both sides. The title I am reviewing today seeks to clear up some of these misunderstandings and misconceptions.

George Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou have edited and produced a series of books called Orthodox Christianity and Contemporary Thought, from Fordham University Press. Their latest book, Orthodox Constructions of the West, is a collection of talks given at a conference in 2010 with the same name, and addresses the way Eastern Orthodoxy see Western Catholicism. Contributors to this work include an Orthodox archbishop, Orthodox priests, a Jesuit priest, professors of theology, etc. Some of the topics included are present-day relations between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, unleavened bread, reading of St. Thomas Aquinas, and primacy and ecclesiology, to name a few. The beauty of books like this is that it is like attending an actual conference. You look at the schedule (or Table of Contents with a book) and decide which talks you want to attend (or articles you want to read).

The first article I would like to briefly highlight is "Perceptions and Realities in Orthodox-Catholic Relations Today." In this article, Jesuit priest, Robert Taft. He begins by declaring his belief that the Orthodox Church is the Apostolic Church of the East and the sister church to the Catholic Church. This is a belief I wholeheartedly agree with and espouse. He then proceeds to list the faults of the Jesuits, particularly in Ethiopia and India and the Catholic Church with regards to Uniate Churches (Eastern Catholic Churches, who are in union with Rome). By doing this, he is following the New Testament Example of removing the log from your eye before addressing the splinters in your brother's eye. He then calls to fault the Orthodox on certain matters. The whole point of this essay is not to point fingers though, no he ends with a call to unity through "ecumenical scholarship and theology." This type of scholarship does not seek confrontation, but understanding, but can only be done by both sides letting down their guards and listening to the other side in terms of critique.

The other article I would like to discuss is "Primacy and Ecclesiology." In this brief article, John Panteleimon Manoussakis begins by discussing the problem of antipapism and whether or not the Orthodox Church needs a primus. He then discusses the arguments against primacy, such as Christ being the head of the Church and Ecumenical Councils being the highest institution of authority, and why he disagrees with them. For example, no one would argue against the office of bishop as the head on a local level. He then explains how the Orthodox anti-pope attitude has created a void in Orthodoxy that has tried to be filled with various divisions of authority, i.e., autocephalies and autonomies. He even goes so far as to call antipapism a heresy. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by this chapter and did not expect him to argue so adamantly in favor of the need for primacy in the Orthodox Church.

Though I only highlighted two of the articles in this book, that is not to say that the other articles are without merit. If you are interested in ecumenism or Catholic-Orthodox relations, this is going to be a must own for you. It has further enlightened me on topics (mentioned above) of which I thought I knew a bit, and it has completely opened my eyes to topics I didn't even consider (before reading this book) as important in East-West relations. I am pleased to have it in my possession, and can easily give this book 5 stars.

This book was provided to me for free by Fordham University Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!