THE EUCHARISTIC PERSPECTIVE OF
THE CHURCH’ S MISSION TODAY AND TOMORROW.
It is indeed a great honour and a
privilege for me to be invited to address this major Inter-Orthodox theological
gathering on the very significant and at the same time very challenging topic:
“The mission of the Church today and tomorrow”. Significant, because it
concentrates on the most important (and yet somehow neglected in our tradition)
aspect of the Church’s life: its mission;
but also challenging, because - contrary to our recent practice - the
focus is not on the past, on our invaluable and most precious tradition, but on
Nevertheless, this knew and very
promising development in the theological deliberations of our Orthodox academic
institutions, the first in modern history which takes place outside the realm of
Greek Orthodoxy, cannot but somehow take into consideration some of the previous
achievements in the series of Conferences of the modern Orthodox Theological
Schools. Thus, one cannot ignore
that: (a) the 1st Congress, held in Athens in 1936, was marked by the historic
appeal for a return to the Fathers,
not as a move towards the past, but as a liberating reaction to the scholastic
inclination of our previous theological endeavours; (b) in the final communiqué
of the 2nd Congress, also held in Athens in 1976, “evident to all members ...
were the importance of...fellowship, the need to understand one
another....a deep interest in ecclesiology, particularly in ecumenical
research and activity.”
Finally, (c) in the last 3rd Congress, which was held in Boston at the premises
of the Greek-Orthodox Theological School of the Holy Cross in 1987, a very bold
but undoubtedly pragmatic view was openly expressed at the keynote address, when
it was stated with bitterness that our modern Orthodox theology has in fact
failed “to open any real dialogue with current theological thinking and
with world ideologies at the level of a commonly accepted vocabulary.”
If one can sum up the major
developments of the past three conferences, this is a missionary concern how to
adjust our legacy with the present reality, the main focus being ecclesiology
and its consequences, i.e. the new ecumenical reality. Indeed, this present
Congress finds our Church - and our theology as the prophetic conscience of the
Church - at the threshold of a new, unprecedented and very challenging
situation, amidst a fast moving world, a world which is marked by divisions,
growing social inequality, serious ecological crisis, and above all by the still
persisting scandalous disunity among christians who confess, and believe in, the
One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the one body of Christ, our only hope (1 Ti 1:1), the communion
of the Holy Spirit, who “constitutes the whole institution of the Church“ and “has
called all in unity”;
in other words, a world that desperately needs our authentic Orthodox ìáñôõñßá
D.J.Bosch in his book Transforming
Mission. Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission,
concludes his chapter on the mission paradigm of our Eastern Orthodox
Church with the following statement:
“The church adapted to the
existing world order, resulting in Church and Society penetrating and permeating
each other. The role of religion - any religion - in society is that of both
stabilizer and emancipator; it is both mythical and messianic. In the Eastern
tradition the church tended to express the former of each of these pairs rather
than the latter. The emphasis was on conservation
and restoration, rather than on embarking on a journey into the unknown.
The key words were ‘tradition’, ‘orthodoxy’, and the ‘Fathers’ (Küng),
and the church became the bulwark of right doctrine. Orthodox churches tended to
become ingrown, excessively nationalistic, and without a concern for those
outside (Anastasios Yannoulatos).
In particular, Platonic
categories of thought all but destroyed primitive Christian eschatology (Beker).
The church established itself in the world as an institute of almost exclusively
This assessment of the Orthodox Church was actually
reinforced by the first Orthodox, mostly immigrants from the pre-revolution
Russia, who came in contact after a long period of separation with the West, and
in their desperate attempt to preserve their Orthodox identity in a quite alien
to them world and present it to their fellow christians in the West, underlined
the mystical aspect of
the Orthodox theology. This is notably the case with V. Lossky, who in his
monumental work under the title The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church has almost determined the
character of the Orthodox understanding of mission in the ecumenical scene.
Today this one-sided (i.e. mystical) presentation is been questioned by various
quarters, the latest being by Ion Bria, who rejoices the existence of a variety
of trends - sometimes even contradictory -
within modern orthodox theology.
With regard to the orthodox understanding of mission Bria himself underlined the
trinitarian dimension of mission:
“Trinitarian theology points
to the fact that God is in God’s own self a life of communion and that God’s
involvement in history aims at drawing humanity and creation in general into
this communion with God’s very life. The implications of this assertion for
understanding mission are very important: mission does not aim primarily at the
propagation or transmission of intellectual convictions, doctrines, moral
commands, etc., but at the transmission of the life of communion, that exists in
This trinitarian approach seems
to be the prevailing among almost all Orthodox in recent time.
One of the most serious contributions of modern Orthodox theology to the world
theology was the reintroduction into current theological thinking of the
importance for all aspects theology of the trinitarian dogma of the undivided
Church. The Preparatory Committee’s suggestion, therefore, that the main
papers should have as a starting point the trinitarian theology is
absolutely legitimate. Without undermining this suggestion, and despite the fact
that the trinitarian approach is widely recognized, and more and more applied
even by non Orthodox
in dealing with current theological issues, I decided to approach the main theme
of the conference from the eucharistic perspective. I came to this
decision not so much in order to avoid a strictly contextual approach;
It is purely for methodological reasons
that I consider it not only as much more appropriate for us orthodox, but also
as more logical.
It is time, I think,
to distance ourselves as much as possible from the dominant to modern
scholarship syndrome of the priority of the texts over the experience, of
theology over ecclesiology. There are many scholars who cling to the dogma,
imposed by the post-Enlightenment and post-Reformation hegemony over all
scholarly theological outlook (and not only in the field of biblical scholarship
or of western and in particular Protestant theology), which can be summarized as
follows: what constitutes the core of our christian faith, of our Orthodox
Tradition if you like, cannot be extracted but from the expressed theological
views, from a certain depositum fidei, be
it the Bible, the writings of the Fathers, the canons and certain decisions of
the Councils; very rarely is there any serious reference to the eucharistic
communion event that has been responsible and produced these views.
my firm conviction that out of the three main characteristics of what is
generally known as Orthodox theology, namely its eucharistic, trinitarian, and
hesyhastic dimension, only the first one can bear a universal and ecumenical
significance. If the last dimension and important feature (i.e. our hesychastic
marks a decisive development in eastern christian theology and spirituality
after the eventual Schism between East and West, a development that has
determined, together with other factors, the mission of our Church in recent
history; and if the trinitarian dimension constitutes the supreme expression of
christian theology, ever produced by human thought in its attempt to grasp the
mystery of God, after christianity’s dynamic encounter with the Greek culture;
it was, nevertheless, only because of the eucharistic experience, the matrix of
all theology and spirituality of our Church, that all theological and spiritual
climaxes in our Church have been actually achieved.
It is almost an assured result of modern
theological scholarship (biblical and liturgical) that the Eucharist was
“lived” in the early Christian community not as a Mystery cult, but as a
foretaste of the coming Kingdom of God, a proleptic manifestation within the
tragic realities of history of an authentic life of communion, unity, justice
and equality, with no practical differentiation (soteriological and beyond)
between Jews and gentiles, slaves and freemen, men and women (cf. Gal 3:28).
This was, after all, the real
meaning of the johannine term «áŒñîéï÷ úöÜÈ (eternal life), and St.
Ignatius’ expression «öÜñìáêïí ˆõáîáóÝá÷È (medicine of
immortality). According to some historians, the Church was able a few
generations later, with the important contribution of the Greek Fathers of the
golden age, to come up with the doctrine of trinity, and much later to further
develop the important distinction between substance and energies, only because
of the eschatological experience of koinonia in the Eucharist (both
vertical with its head, and horizontal among the people of God, and by extension
with the entire humanity) of the early christian community, an experience which
ever since continues to constitute the only expression of the Church’s
self-consciousness, its Mystery par excellence.
In sum, if one wants to approach any specific
issue, like the theme of the present conference, which is the Church and its
mission today and tomorrow, one
should avoid the temptation to ignore the primary experience, i.e. the ecclesia
and its eucharistic eschatological experience, the matrix of all theology, or to
use a socio-(cultural-) anthropological description the wider “social space”
that produced all theological interpretations of this experience; but on the
other hand, it would be a methodological fallacy to project later theological
interpretations into this primary eschatological
The christian understanding of
mission has undoubtedly to be determined by the teaching, life and work of
Christ. His teaching, however, and especially his life and work, cannot be
properly understood without reference to the eschatological expectations of
Judaism. Without entering the complexities of Jewish eschatology, we could say
very briefly that it was interwoven with the expectation of the coming of the
Messiah. In the "last days" of history (“the Eschaton") he
would establish his kingdom by calling the dispersed and afflicted people of God
into one place to become one body united around him. The statement in Jn
11:51-52 about the Messiah's role is extremely important. There the writer
interprets the words of the Jewish High
priest by affirming that "he prophesied that Jesus should die...not for the
nation only but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered
Throughout the Gospels Christ identifies himself
with this Messiah. We see this in the various Messianic titles he chose for
himself, or at least as witnessed by the most primitive Christian tradition
("Son of man", "Son
of God", etc., most of which had a collective meaning, whence the
christology of "corporate personality"). We see it as well in the
parables of the kingdom, which summarize his teaching,
proclaiming that his coming initiates the new world of the kingdom of
God, in the Lord's Prayer, but also
in his conscious acts (e.g. the selection of the twelve, etc.). In short,
Christ identified himself with the Messiah of the Eschaton who would be
the center of the gathering of the dispersed people of God.
It was on this radical
eschatological teaching of the Historical Jesus about the Kingdom of God (which
as modern biblical research has shown moves dialectically between the
"already" and the "not yet"; in other words, begins already
in the present but will be completed in its final authentic form in the
eschaton) that the early Church has developed its ecclesiology, on which its
missionary practice was based. From the writings of Paul, John, and Luke, in
addition to other works, we see this teaching reflected in images of the Church
as the Body of Christ, as Vine, and especially as unity. The apostle Paul in
particular was absolutely convinced that all who have believed in Christ have
been incorporated into His body through Baptism, completing with the Eucharist
their incorporation into the one people of God. The 4th Gospel develops this
radical eschatological teaching even further in regard to the unity of the
people of God around Christ and their incorporation into Christ's body through
the Eucharist above all.
The main contribution, which the primitive
christian theology has made to the development of this messianic eschatology,
was the common belief of almost all theologians of the early Church,
emphasized and underlined most sharply by St. Luke, that with Christ's
Resurrection and especially with Pentecost, the Eschaton had already entered
history, and that the messianic eschatological community becomes a reality each
time the Church, the new Israel, the dispersed people of God, gathers "åðß ôï áõôü” (in one place), especially
when it gathers to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. This development is undoubtedly
the starting point of christian mission, the springboard of the Church’s
witnessing Exodus to the world, which in fact interpreted the imminent
expectation of the Parousia in a dynamic and radical way.
The missiological imperatives of the early Church
stem exactly from this awareness of the Church as an eschatological, dynamic,
radical, and corporate reality, commissioned
to witness the Kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10 par).
The apostles were commissioned to proclaim not a set of given religious
convictions, doctrines, moral commands etc., but the coming Kingdom, the Good
news of a new eschatological reality, which had as its center the crucified and
resurrected Christ, the incarnation of God the Logos and His dwelling among us
human beings, and His continuous presence through the Holy Spirit, in a life of
communion, experienced in their
“eucharistic” (in the wider sense) life. That is why they are called ±çéïé
(holy); because they belonged to
that chosen race of the people of God. That is why they were considered
âáóÝìåéïî ”åòÀôåùíá (royal priesthood); because all of
them, without exception (not just some special cast such as the priests or
levites) have priestly and spiritual authority
to practice in the diaspora the work of the priestly class, reminded at
the same time to be worthy of their election though their exemplary life and
That is why they were called to walk towards unity ("so that they may
become perfectly one”, Jn
17:23), to abandon all deeds of darkness; because the one who called them out of
darkness into light, "from non existence into being", who took them as
non-members of the people of God and made them into genuine
members of the new eschatological community
is holy and perfect.
The writings of John are particularly replete with evidence of the understanding
that with the entrance of the eschaton into history all of the characteristic
elements of the end - judgment, resurrection, kingdom, and consequently
sinlessness, purity - begin to act mystically in the world.
No doubt, this initial horizontal
historical eschatology, - which identifies the Church not by what it is in
the present, but by what it will become in the Eschaton, and at the same time
suggests that the Church’s mission is the dynamic journey of the people of God
as a whole towards the Eschaton, with the Eucharist as the point of departure -
became interwoven from the very first days of the Church's life with a vertical
one, which put the emphasis on a more personal understanding of
salvation. From the time of the St. Paul the apostle e.g. this personalization
is quite evident in his justification by faith theology, but this “paradigm
shift” has also affected the understanding of the Eucharist, the primary act
of self-consciousness of community as a koinonia of the eschata and as a
proleptic manifestation of the coming kingdom of God. No matter for what
from the time of St. Paul there has been a shift of the center of gravity from
the (eucharistic) experience to
the (christian) message, from
eschatology to christology
(and further and consequently to soteriology), from
the event (the Kingdom of
God), to the bearer and center of this event ((Christ, and more precisely his sacrifice on the cross).
However, the Eucharist (the theia koinonia) always remained the sole
expression of the Church’s identity.
Although some theologians consider this second
concept, which was mingled with the original biblical/semitic thought, as
stemming from Greek philosophers (Stoics and others), nevertheless it is more
than clear that the horizontal-eschatological view was the predominant one in
New Testament and in other early Christian writings. The vertical-soteriological
view was always understood within the context of the horizontal-eschatological
perspective as supplemental and complementary. This is why the liturgical
experience of the early Church is incomprehensible without its social dimension
(see Acts 2:42ff., 1 Cor 11:1ff., Heb 13: 10-16; Justin, 1 Apology
67; Irenaeus, Adver. Her.
This missiological perspective and experience in
the early Church is also clearly reflected within its liturgical order, which
from the time of St. Ignatius of Antioch onwards considers the eschatological
people of God, gathered in one place around Christ, as reflected in the offices
of the Church: the bishop is “in the place and as image of Christ”, while
the presbyters around him re-present the apostles. Above all it is the
eucharistic gathering which authentically expresses the mystery of the Church.
Here, in the gathering of the community around the bishop, the community does
not propagate its faith on the basis of a sacramental redemption from worldly
suffering, nor does it proclaim personal perfection and individual salvation;
rather it witnesses its entity as the proleptic manifestation of the
eschatological Kingdom of God.
eucharistic/liturgical understanding of the Church, considered as
an icon of the Eschaton, also resulted in an understanding of its mission as an
imperative duty to witness its identity as an authentic expression in a
particular time and place of the eschatological glory of the Kingdom of God,
with all that this could imply for social life.
It is to be noted, that a conviction began to grow among Church writers,
beginning with the author of Hebrews (10:1) and more fully developed in the
writings of Maximus the Confessor, that the events of the Old Testament were «óêéÜ»
(shadow) of future riches, and that present Church reality is only an «åéêþí»
(image) of the «áëÞèåéá» (truth), which is only to be
revealed in the Eschaton.
This fundamental biblical and early christian understanding of
mission, based on the eucharistic/ liturgical and eschatological understanding
of the Church, by the third century AD began (under the intense ideological
pressure of christian Gnosticism and especially Platonism) to gradually fall out
of favour, or at best to coexist with concepts promulgated by the Catechetical
School of Alexandria. This type of spirituality and christian witness did not
have as its point of reference the Eschaton, the Ù (omega), but the Creation,
the A (alpha), the «áñ÷Þ»
(beginnings) of human beings, humanity's primal state of blessedness in paradise
before the Fall. The main representatives of this school, Clement of Alexandria
and Origen, gave christian ecclesiology, and by extension missiology, a new
direction which, as Metropolitan John Zizioulas emphatically put, was "not
merely a change (ôñïðÞ), but a complete reversal (áíáôñïðÞ)."
The Church ceases to be the icon of the Eschaton, and becomes instead the icon
of the origin of beings, of Creation.
Christ being primarily considered as the source of man's union with God
and as the recapitulation, in some sense, of man's fallen nature. But if
"recapitulation" was understood biblically earlier in the Church's
with the Alexandrians the concept is torn completely from its biblical roots in
eschatology. The Eschaton is no longer the focal point and apex of the Divine
Economy. The direction of interest has been reversed, and now the focus is on
Creation. Thus we have a cosmological approach to the Church and to its
mission, and not a historical one, as in the Holy Scriptures. The Church is now
understood, completely apart from the historical community, as a perfect and
Naturally, therefore, interest in mission and the
historical process has diminished, together with interest in the institutional
reality of the Church, whose purpose is now characterized, at best, as «èåñáðåõôÞñéïí
(sanatorium of souls). The Church’s mission is now directed not in bringing
about synergicly and prolepticly the Kingdom of God, but toward the
salvation of the souls of every individual christian. Historically this new
development in the Church’s missiological attitude is connected with the
origins of monasticism.
Without ignoring the communal and eschatological character of the authentic
the fact remains that the central core of Alexandrian theology, with which
monasticism was historically connected, was a departure from the initial radical
and dynamic horizontal eschatology of the New Testament and of the early
post-apostolic christian tradition, in some cases even in direct opposition to
The consequences for christian spirituality, and
more particularly for mission, of this theology and ecclesiology were immense.
The Church's common worship, its offices and institutions lost virtually all
meaning as icons of the Eschaton.
What now became the priority was the union of human beings with the pre-eternal
Logos, the return of the soul to its bliss in Paradise before the Fall. It was
not accidental that during the first stage of the development of christian
monasticism the monks cut themselves off from common worship to devote
themselves to continuous private prayer. Of course the notion of continuous
prayer (áäéÜëåéðôïò ðñïóåõ÷Þ)
was not new (cf. 1 Thes 5:17); what was new, was its interpretation. Whereas the
early Christians considered that every act or expression could be regarded as
prayer, now in some monastic circles private prayer as such has in fact replaced
everything else, most notably mission.
This defection from the original spirituality of
the early Church resulted in the creation of new forms and concepts of worship,
which we see especially in the formation of what later came to be known as the
"monastic typikon". Within this important spiritual movement worship
no longer takes its meaning from the eschatological perspective of the
Eucharist, but is designed instead to be used primarily as a tool to carve
deeply within the mind of the monastics the principle of continuous individual
Under this peculiar mysticism, salvation is no
longer connected to the coming Kingdom, of
the anticipation of a new eschatological community with a more authentic
structure. Now, salvation is identified with the soul's union with the Logos,
and therefore, with the catharsis, the purification from all that
prohibits union with the primal Logos, including all that is material, tangible
(áéóèçôÜ), historical. The «ìáñáíáèá» of the pauline communities and the
(come Lord) of the seer/prophet of the Apocalypse are replaced by continuous
prayer and the struggle against the demons and the flesh.
In contrast, therefore, to the
eucharistic/liturgical understanding of the christian witness, this therapeutic/
cathartic one, which focuses on a perception of the Church not as an
icon of the Eschaton, but as an icon of the origin of beings and their union
with the pre-existing Logos, consists on an effort towards the catharsis (purification) of the soul from passions, and towards therapy
(healing) of the fallen nature of the human beings (men/women). In other
words, the reference point is not the eschatological glory of the Kingdom of
God, but the state of blessedness in Paradise before the Fall. Naturally then
the Church’s mission can hardly be seen in terms of the kingdom-theology, i.e.
as the implementation in this world of the prolepticly experienced in the
Eucharist and constantly confessed in the Lord’s prayer,
but in terms of the individual salvation.
These two basic understandings
of ecclesiology, spirituality and mission remained as parallel forces, sometimes
meeting together and forming a creative unity, and some other times moving apart
creating dilemmas and conflicts. Where should one search for the starting point
of the Church’s mission to the world and in fact to the entire kosmos? where
can one find personal wholeness and salvation? In the eucharistic gathering
around the bishop, where one could overcome creatively all schizophrenic
dichotomies (spirit/matter, transcendence/immanence, coming together/ going
forth etc.) and social polarities? Or in the desert, the hermitage, the
monastery, where presumably the effort of catharsis and healing of passions
through ascetic discipline of the individual is more effective? This was, and
remains, a critical dilemma in the life of the Church, especially in the East.
Without any doubt the center of the Church's
mission and spirituality, with few exceptions, has always remained the
Eucharist, the sole place where the Church becomes what it actually is: the
people of God, the Body of Christ, the communion of the Holy
Spirit; a glimpse and a foretaste of the coming Kingdom of God. However,
this begs the question: how is one to understand this unique (and not one among
many) sacrament and mystery of the Church? 
A decisive turning point in the
development of Orthodox understanding of the Church’s mission came when the
high theology spirituality of the corpus areopagiticus has affected
liturgy. Pseudo-Dionysius was undoubtedly the catalyst in the development of the
Church’s liturgy and mission. His theological analyses and reflections made a
tremendous impact not only on the shaping of subsequent theology and monastic
spirituality; it also affected the very heart of biblical radical eschatology,
as expressed in the eucharistic liturgy, with significant consequences for the
Using the anagogic method
Ps-Dionysius interpreted the liturgical rites of the Church by raising them from
the letter to the spirit, from the visible acts of the sacraments to the one
mystery of the invisible God.
Even the bishop's movements within the Church are considered as a divine return
to the origin of beings. With this method, however, the eschatological view of
the Eucharist finally disappears. The sole function of worship is now to assist
the soul mystically return to the spiritual realities of the unseen world.
According to the late John Meyendorff, those who followed dionysian symbolism
approached the Eucharist in the context of a hellenistic hierarchical cosmos,
and understood it as the center of salvific action through mystical
That is why there is no mention here at all of Christ's self-sacrifice, nor of
his mediatory and high-priestly role;
mediation in the dionysian system is the work of the earthly hierarchy and the
rites which it (and not the community as a whole) performs.
Where the dionysian system reaches its most
extreme, however, is in overturning the eschatological and historical dimensions
of the Eucharist. There is not a single reference to the fundamental Pauline
interpretation of the Eucharist, according to which at every eucharistic
gathering “we proclaim Christ's death until he comes”; 1 Cor 11:26). Even
communion, the most important act of the Eucharist, is no more than a symbol of
the believer's union with the God.
In other words, we have moved from the earlier understanding of the communion of
the body of Christ (the incarnate Word) and in the body of Christ (the
Church), to a communion simply with the
From the mid-Byzantine period onward the
understanding of Eucharist as a springboard for mission, as the mystery par
excellence of the Church, the feast of the eschatological joy,
the gathering «åðß
of the eschatological people of God,
the expression of fellowship among people,
the participation in the word and the supper of the Lord,
are no longer on the front line. Once a realistic expression of the Body of
Christ and a communion of the Holy
Spirit, it now became a place of theophany, a sign and point of meeting with the
mystery of the Divine. Active
participation in the Divine Liturgy no longer means participation in the
processions, in the singing, in listening and understanding of the readings and
the sermons, not even in receiving the communion. Now, the main point of all
liturgical life is the uplifting of the individual believers, their transfer
through faith from history to theoria, from visible symbols and
actions to the transcendent reality which they depict. In this way, little by
little, for the great mass of people, but also for the clerical vanguard of the
Church, including most theologians, the Eucharist, the Church's lei-tourgia
(the people's work), lost its fundamental ecclesial dimension, and with it all
its missionary significance and power.
Nevertheless, paradoxically the
liturgical (corporate/historical/eschatological) spirituality was preserved to
some extent within the consciousness of the Orthodox. But this was predominantly
outside the actual life of worship, in the daily life of a largely enslaved
Orthodoxy, in the secular communities and guilds. The source of this unexpected
and happy ending is that the main core of the Sunday eucharistic liturgy, in
spite of all the exaggerated symbolism and some unnecessary additions, remained
untouched in its communal dimension (eschatological, but vigorously historical
and in many ways anti-pietistic) and continued to reflect the understanding of
the Eucharist primarily as a corporate act of mission that
embraces the entire society and the whole created world.
a real wonder how the four main processional sections of our Eastern liturgy
survived into the present, even with many deviations along the way.
Thus (a) the solemn entrance of the whole worshipping community into the church
building was reduced to the Little Entrance with the Gospel, without the
people's participation. The laos simply view the performance.
(b) The same thing happens with the Great Entrance: No longer do
the people participate directly in offering the gifts of creation in order that
the presiding of the community "refers" them back (áíáöïñÜ)
to the Creator. Instead, the people now "offer" the gifts as "prosphora"
(liturgical bread) outside the eucharistic liturgy during the
"proskomede", a rite which derives from this period and which was
transferred as a preparation of the holy gifts before the eucharistic liturgy
proper. (c) The Kiss of peace ("let us love one another"), this
dynamic act of community reconciliation, and therefore the sole precondition for
participation in true worship (Mt 5:23 ff.) is limited now exclusively to the
clergy. Finally, (d) the communion, the culminating and most important
act of the eucharistic rite is shifted and completely transformed from a
corporate act that anticipates the eschatological Kingdom, into an act of
individual piety. What, however, is even more tragic, is that the participation
of the entire people in the Sacrament of the Church (i.e. in receiving communion) was
completely abandoned. But without catholic communion the Divine Liturgy becomes
at best a symbolic reality for spiritual contemplation, and at worst a sterile
Having thus far underlined the
significance of the reinforcement of the eucharistic criterion in determining
our Church’s witness, it became I suppose clear that the basic presuppositions
of today’s mission of the Church, should necessarily start from the very heart
of our (Orthodox) christian identity: the Eucharist, as the only expression of
the being of the Church. All
other missiological imperatives are bound to be incomplete and ineffective - not
to mention that they beg the question - as long as the very being of the Church
in its ontological and massive expression remains far from a living expression
of unity, communion, equality, fellowship, sharing and self-sacrifice; as long
as our eucharistic gatherings remains exclusively in a status of a
sacramentalistic (quasi magic) cultic act, and not a proleptic manifestation of
the Kingdom of God, a proleptic transcendence of the corruptibility,
disintegration, disunity and mortality of the human historical reality, or in
more theological terms as an “icon” of (the expected to be fully manifested
at the eschaton) “truth”.
Unfortunately, because of lack -
for centuries now - of a healthy theological concern (equal to that of the great
Fathers of our Church), the present sacramental reality of the Church was
considered as almost unequivocal, with a tragic effect to its authentic witness.
The late Fr. A. Schmemann has been instrumental during his lifetime to implement
in our Orthodox Church a liturgical renewal; but he insisted only on the
necessity of a theological interpretation of our liturgical tradition, thus
coming short to a radical rediscovery and reinforcement of the authentic
liturgical/eucharistic identity of our Church’s witness.
In order that a renewal in christian witness can take place in our Orthodox Church, it is necessary as a basic presupposition to turn our attention first to its eucharistic expression, the heart and center of its ontological identity. In the remaining time I will very briefly refer to the absolutely necessary re-adjustments (not reforms) of our eucharistic liturgical praxis, in order that our local eucharistic communities regain their authentic “Orthodox” outlook. Only then can one hope that our Church’s witness to a crying world can be both “orthodox” and effective. And these are:
The restoration of the catholic participation in the eschatological table
of the Kingdom; this means participation of the entire community to the holy
communion (not just frequent communion) without either certain
preconditions (such as worthiness, or preparation of the individual faithful),
or any connection of the sacrament par excellence of the Church
(Eucharist) to other sacraments (repentance, priesthood etc., certainly of
lesser importance from the point of view of the Orthodox theology), should
determine the primary expression of the Church’s identity.
Return to the early christian status of full and inclusive participation of
the entire people of God (special/ordained and general/lay priesthood, men and
women) to the actions, processions and singing of the
ëåé-ôïõñãßá (=act of the people), and if possible
rehabilitation of the cathedral office.
Step by step replacement of the normal choir, (at least of the solitary church
singer, the «éåñïøÜëôçò»), by the entire laos (as the
original and authentic orthodox tradition, according to all liturgical rubrics
demands), until all these intermediary and
by all means assisting factors of our liturgical life are done away, or better
become leading figures rather than substitutes of the participating in the
eucharistic drama community.
care that the Eucharist, as well as all other connected to it liturgical
services (both those of the Divine
Office, and the sacramental ones, i.e. the Holy Mysteries), are celebrated in a
form (symbolic, linguistic, dramatic etc.) profitable to
the grass root faithful and understood by the entire community, the
natural co-celebrants of the Holy Mysteries of the Church.
Complete abolishment of the all secretly read by the presiding celebrant
common prayers, especially those of the anaphora to its entirety, as well
as of all other later developed liturgical acts, such as e.g. the restriction
only to the higher priestly orders of the kiss of love, (let us love one
another), this dynamic act of reconciliation of the community and sole
precondition to the true, logical and reasonable (ëïãéêÞ ëáôñåßá)
worship (cf. Mt 5:23ff).
Return of the Orthodox Church Building technique (íáïäïìßá) to its
original form, by underlining all those elements which characterize the pioneer
and revolutionary byzantine Church Building technique of Agia Sophia, such as:
(i) the illumination of the space, in contrast to the later dim and dull
technical style (a result of later and not always theologically healthy, as we
pointed out above, influence), which instead of directing the community toward
the light and joy of the Kingdom, unconsciously contributes to a rather
individualization of the salvation event; (ii) the abolishment of all later (and
certainly of western influence) pews and chairs of all kinds in the nave, that
transform the worshipping peoples from active co-celebrants to passive
attendants of the liturgical actions.
Emphasis on all processional, liturgical and participatory elements of our
Orthodox Liturgy, starting with (i) the re-establishment of the ambo,
and transfer around it, i.e. outside the sanctuary, of all related
parts of our liturgical praxis, such as the “Sacrament of the Word” at the
Divine Liturgy, and the non-eucharistic services (vespers, matins etc.),
according to our ancient canonical order (which is fortunately preserved even
today, but only during the hierarchical services, in which the bishop
«÷ïñïóôáôåß» (stands by the choir, i.e. by the community);
(ii) the return of the Great Entrance to its original form, i.e. with a
symbolic participation of the entire community at the transfer of the
gifts of creation (represented by the deacons alone, this intermediate
order between the lay people and the ordained ministry), so that the presiding
celebrant simply receives and not himself transfers the offerings of
the community (cf. again the traditional order of the eucharistic
celebration with a presiding bishop), and of course return of the rite of the proskomide
back to its original place, i.e. immediately before the Great Entrance.
Abolishment of the later structure of the iconostasis, a development that
has had an unfortunate effect and has further intensified the existing barrier
between the clergy and the rest of the people of God. In my view, it would be
extremely beneficial for both pastoral and missionary purposes to return to the
architectural status immediately after the triumph of the icons, with the only
dividing elements between the sanctuary and the nave being high columns (óôçëïé, hence áíáóôÞëùóéò) and short èùñÜêåéá, on top of
which small portable icons will be placed, in the place of the gigantic ones.
Underlining of the exclusively eschatological character of the Sunday
Eucharist (as the
mystery/sacrament of the Kingdom, and not as one religious rite among others,
and of the eucharistic gathering as a glimpse and manifestation of the eight
day) by the return to the sabbaitic typikon, i.e. attaching the Sunday matins to
The above practical proposals
for our eucharistic services, may sound as of secondary importance, or only of
pastoral and scarcely of a missionary character, in other words simplistic and
naive, or even of not theological importance, as theologia secunda and
not theologia prima. But here we are dealing with the being and the
identity of the Church, without the authentic expression of which christianity
may well slip (because of external factors and of social dynamics) to an
authoritarian and oppressive religious system. Without the prophetic voice of
theology, the leitourgia, the primary expression of the Church, and the
Eucharist as its center and climax, can easily become at best a useless
typolatry, and at worst a sacramentalistic (for some even demonic) ritual, which
instead of directing the christian community towards the vision of the coming
Kingdom, it leads it to individualistic and mystical paths. And this is
something which eventually distances the members of the community from the
“other” (and therefore from God, the real “Other”), leading them to
death, to hell.
The problem of the Church’s witness, i.e. the
problem of overcoming the evil in the world, is not basically a moral issue. It
is primarily and even exclusively ecclesial. The moral and social responsibility
of the Church (both as an institution and also of its individual members), as
the primary witnessing acts of the body of Christ, is the logical consequence of
their ecclesial self-consciousness. It is, therefore, only by a massive
reaffirmation of the eucharistic identity of the Church through a radical liturgical
renewal that our Orthodox Church can bear witness to its fundamental
characteristics of unity and catholicity.
Only then can we hope that today’s “exclusivity” will naturally
give its place to the priority of the “communion” with the “others”. And
only then will our Church definitely and once and for all overcome all kinds of
nationalistic and phyletistic behaviour, the worse heresy of our time, thus not
only promoting Orthodox unity, but also actively contributing to the quest both
of the visible unity of the Church and at the same time to the struggle for the
unity of humankind.
terms of mission this will also mean a common evangelistic witness.
Beyond the biblical references (Mt 25:31ff: here what really matters is not so
much accepting, and believing in, the abundant
love of our Triune God [confessional, religious exclusiveness], but
exemplifying it to the world through witness [ecclesial inclusiveness]), the
eucharistic perspective of mission points far beyond denominational boundaries,
beyond christian limitations, even beyond the religious sphere in the
conventional sense, and towards the manifestation of the Kingdom of God, the
restoration of God’s “household” (ïéêïò) of God, in its majestic
Through a genuine eucharistic
revival one can expect much easier to overcome the corrupted hierarchical order
both in society and in the priestly ecclesiastical order, which is a reflection
of the fallen earthly order
and not of the kenotic divine one. This will inevitably
result in the proper traditional “iconic” understanding of all
priestly ministries, but will also lead to a more authentic “conciliar”
status in all sectors of the ecclesiastical life (i.e. participation of the
entire laos to the priestly, royal and prophetic ministry of the Church), and to
a genuine community of men and women.
Finally, the eucharistic revival
will also help the Church to move away from a certain “christocentric
universalism” and towards a “trinitarian” understanding of the divine
reality and of the Church’s mission that embraces the entire
“oikoumene” as the one household of life. Especially for mission,
this means the abandonment of any effort of proselytism,
not only among christians of other denominations (which is a caricature of true
evangelism), but even among peoples of other religions.
Martyria/witness and dialogue will
then replace, or at least run parallel to, the old missiological terminology.
This development, of course, will by no means imply abandoning our fundamental
christian soteriology (from the slogan “no salvation but through Christ”-
overcoming the classical catholic view “extra ecclesiam salus non est”,
first expressed by Cyprian of Carthage and later misinterpreted to exclusively
meaning the “institutional” [Catholic?] Church - to a novel one “no
salvation but through God”).
It is rather a radical reinterpretation of christology through pneumatology,
through the rediscovery of the forgotten trinitarian
of the undivided Church, and above all through the eucharistic theology.
“Patristics and Modern Theology,” in A.Alivizatos (ed.), Procès-Verbaux
du Premiere Congrès de Théologie Orthodoxe à Athenes, 1939,
(ed.), Procès-Verbaux du Deuxième Congrès de Théologie
Orthodoxe, 1978, p. 574 (italics mine).
GOTR 83 (1993) pp. 30ff.
the hymns of Pentecost.
Transforming Mission. Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, 1991,
Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 1957.
The Sense of Ecumenical Tradition. The Ecumenical Witness and Vision of
the Orthodox, 1991, p. 2.
(ed.), Go fourth in Peace, 1986, p. 3.
e.g. the application of the trinitarian theology to the structure of
the Church. By nature the Church cannot reflect the worldly image of secular
organizations, which is based on power and domination, but the kenotic image
of the Holy Trinity, which is based on love and communion. If one takes a
little further this trinitarian approach and takes into consideration the
distinction of the hypostases (persons) within the Holy Trinity, one can
come to the conclusion that the Church is a Church of "God" (the
father) before it becomes a Church of "Christ" and of a certain
place. In Orthodox Liturgy all the proper eucharistic prayers are addressed
to God. This theology has revealing implications also on a number of issues
ranging from the profound meaning of episcopacy (Bishop image of
"Christ") to the dialectics between Christ - Church, divine -
human, unity of man and woman, etc.
latest book Ecumenism in Transition. A Paradigm Shift in the Ecumenical
Movement, 1991 (translated with modifications from the German original Ökumene
im Übergang, 1989, and now also in Greek translation) is a perfect
example of a well documented argumentation for the necessity, and to our
view also for the right use, of the trinitarian theology in modern
scholarship. Cf. also sister Elizabeth A. Johnson’s She Who Is: The
Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, 1992, especially
ch. 10 under the title “Triune God: Mystery of Revelation”,
serious attempt to approach the problem of contextual theology has been
undertaken by my faculty (Department of Theology of the Aristotle University
of Thessaloniki, Greece), which organized in Thessaloniki (2-3 October 1992)
jointly with the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey a theological symposium on
the theme: “Classical and Contextual Theology. The Task of Orthodox
Theology in the Post-Camberra Ecumenical Movement”. The papers in Greek
translation have been published in the journal Kath’ Odon 4 (1993)
pp.3ff. My keynote paper in a shortened form appeared also in Ökuminishe
Rundschau 41 (1993)
452-460; for its original form (“Oñèïäïîßá êáé èåïëïãßá
ôçò óõíÜöåéáò”) see also in my Lex Orandi. Studies of
Liturgical Theology, 1994,
M.Begzos, “Orthodox Theology and the Future of its Past,”, Eêêëçóéáóôéêüò
KÞñõêáò 3 (1991) 138-170, pp. 146åî (in Greek).
On this debated issue cf. S.Agouridis, H Aãßá TñéÜäá êáé åìåßò óôç óýã÷ñïíç
èåïëïãéêÞ óêÝøç ãåíéêÜ êáé óôçí Oñèïäïîßá åéäéêÜ, 1993; idem, «Mðïñïýí ôá ðñüóùðá ôçò TñéÜäáò íá äþóïõí âÜóç ãéá
ðåñóïíáëéóôéêÝò áðüøåéò ðåñß ôïõ
áíèñþðïõ; Ó÷üëéá óå êÜðïéåò óýã÷ñïíåò Oñèüäïîåò èåïëïãéêÝò
33 1990, 67-78; Metr. J.Zizioulas, «Tï åßíáé ôïõ Èåïý êáé ôï åßíáé
ôïõ áíèñþðïõ. Aðüðåéñá èåïëïãéêïý äéáëüãïõ», Óýíáîç
37 (1991) 11-35.
similar reason, and with all due respect to the proposed scheme, i.e. the
Preparatory Committee’s suggestion to elaborate the theme from the Greek
Orthodox perspective - which is absolutely legitimate for practical
reasons - I propose not to
contribute (indirectly of course) to the subconsciously existing dividing
lines within Orthodoxy, and expound a strictly “regional” (i.e. Greek
Orthodox) point of view, but rather a “theological”
and “ecumenically Orthodox” (i.e. critical, and sometimes even
self-critical) one. After all, in my Greek Orthodox constituency for some
decades now the prevailing “theological paradigm” is being determined by
the hesyhastic rather than the eucharistic tradition of our Church. In other
words, I will try to expound what I consider, out of my ecclesial (i.e.
liturgical) experience, the understanding of mission of the “one, holy,
catholic and apostolic Church” should
Cf. also Is 66:18; Mt 25:32; Rom 12:16;
Didache 9:4b; Mart. Polyc. 22:3b; Clemens of Rome, I Cor., 12:6 etc.
Chrysostom’s comment on the
relevant petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “(Christ) did not say ’Your
will be done’ in me, or in us, but everywhere on earth, so that error may
be destroyed, and truth implanted, and all wickedness cast out, and virtue
return, and no difference in this respect be henceforth between heaven and
57 col. 280).
The Elect and the Holy, 1966, has redetermined on the part of the
Protestant biblical theology the real meaning of the term «âáóßëåéïí
”åñÜôåõìá», which has so vigorously discussed since the time of
Luther. Cf. R.Brown, Priest and Bishop: Biblical Reflections, 1971.
I Pe 2:10: “Ïnce
you were no people, now you are God's people”.
Jn 17:19; also Mt 5:48 par.
Cf. S.Agouridis, , «Aìáñôßá êáé áíáìáñôçóßá êáôÜ ôçí
A´EðéóôïëÞí ôïõ Aãßïõ IùÜííïõ», XáñéóôÞñéïí. Téìçôéêüò ôüìïò Aìßëêá Ó. AëéâéæÜôïõ,
1958, 537-569, p. 568; also his «Xñüíïò êáé Aéùíéüôçò (åó÷áôïëïãßá êáé
ìõóôéêïðÜèåéá) åí ôç èåïëïãéêÞ
äéäáóêáëßá IùÜííïõ ôïõ èåïëüãïõ» EEÈÓÈ 3
(1958) 109-156, êáé 4 (1959), 29-61.
in his recent doctoral dissertation under my supervision (The Eucharist
in the Pauline Mission. Sociological Approach, 1995), tried to analyze
this “paradigm shift” at that crucial moment of early christianity and
claimed that “the Eucharist
in Paul was understood not only as an icon of the eschata, but also as a
missionary event with cosmic and social consequences. The Eucharist for him
was not only the sacrament of the Church, but also the sacrament of the
world. Within the pauline communities the Eucharist had a double orientation
(in contrast to the overall eschatological and otherworldly dimension of it
in earlier tradition): towards the world as diastolic
movement, and towards God as a systolic movement” (pp.
187-88). According to Passakos«the Eucharist for Paul is at the same
time an experience of the
eschata and a movement toward the eschata” (p.
my Cross and Salvation, 1983 (in Greek), an English summary of which
can be found in a paper of mine delivered at the 1984 annual Leuven
Colloquium (“Óôáõñüò: Centre of the Pauline Soteriology and
Apostolic Ministry”, A.Vanhoye [ed.], L’Apôtre Paul.
Personnalité, Style et Conception du Ministère, 1986, pp.
Ignatius, Ad Eph. 13:.
 J.Zizioulas, ÈÝìáôá
åêêëçóéïëïãßáò, p. 28.
Alexandrians, under the influence of the ancient Greek philosophy,
particularly Platonism, believed that the original condition of beings
represents perfection and that all subsequent history is a decline. The
mystery of the incarnation contributes almost nothing to this system of
thought. On Origen’s soteriology and its minimal salvific significance of
the Christ’s human nature see A.Grillmeier, Christ
in Christian Tradition, Atlanta 1975²; also R.Taft, «The Liturgy of
the Great Church: An Initial Synthesis of Structure and Interpretation on
the Eve of Iconoclasm», DOP
34-35 (1980-81) 45-75
p. 62, n. 79.
St. Irenaeus’ use of «áíáêåöáëáßùóéò»
(recapitulation) (Adver. Her. 3) based on the pauline theology. One
can also cf. how finally St. Athanasius the Great articulated this concept
more definitively in his classic statement that «Èåüò åíçíèñþðçóåí ßíá çìåßò èåïðïéçèþìåí» (On
Incarnation, 54: He [God]
became man so that we could become God).
the eastern, but also the western, monasteries the works of Origen were
studied with great reverence, even after his conciliar condemnation (cf.
G.Manzaridis, “Spiritual Life in Palamism”,
J.Raitt-B.McGinn-J.Meyendorff (eds.),Christian Spirituality. II: High
Middle Ages and Reformation, 1988 208-222, p. 216).
this point it is essential to point out that this general trend should not
be confused with the authentic understanding of the Christian theology of
monasticism. It would be a serious mistake not to refer to the various
corrective theological interventions through which the monastic movement was
incorporated into the life of the Church (the cenobitic system of Pachomius,
The Vita Antoniae, by Athanasius the Great, the communal and
ecclesiological orientation of monasticism by Basil the Great, the
eschatological meaning given to therapeutic ecclesiology and "the bold
synthesis of all previous theological experience" by the monk Maximus
the Confessor, etc.). One should not ignore the various theological
approaches which stress the eschatological dimension of eastern monasticism,
which characterize it as "a sign of the Kingdom", a "life of
repentance". The latter is clearly an eschatological concept
based on Christ's words in his very first proclamation: "Repent,
for the Kingdom of God is at hand" (Mk 1:15 and par.) The monastic' s
life is considered as an
“angelic life” because , at least according to the interpretation of
Pachomius, celibacy was connected to the future Kingdom on the basis of the
Lord's words: "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given
in marriage but are like angels in heaven" (Mt 22:30), and "there
are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of
God" (Mt 19:12 and par.)
to W. Jardine Grisbrooke, «The Formative Period-Cathedral and Monastic
Offices», C.Jones-G.Wainwright-E.Yarnold-P.Bradshaw (eds.), The Study of
Liturgy, New York (1988¹, 1992²), 403-420, monasticism as a lay
movement in its initial stages was not only a detachment from, and rejection
of, the world; it also believed that priesthood was incompatible with the
monastic order (óåë. 404).
Schmemann, Introduction to Liturgical Theology, p.160
(of the 1991 Greek translation).
As Grisbrooke points out, "it has nothing to do with corporate worship,
but is rather a helpful expression of individual private prayer practiced in
common." (“The Formative Period-Cathedral and Monastic Offices,” p.
order to have a clear view of the problem one can compare the Eucharistic
prayers of the anaphoras (the
earliest ones, and particularly of the Eastern Byzantine rite, all of them
composed by bishops with a cosmic and social view of salvation) with the
later hymnology expressing the
life-experience, conflicts and struggles of the monastic communities, but
also with the various mystagogical interpretations. More on the relationship
between liturgy and mystagogy, ritual and its meaning in H.-J.Schultz, The
Byzantine Liturgy. Symbolic Structure and Faith Expression, engl.trans.
the allegorical interpretation of the Alexandrians finally did not dominate
biblical hermeneutics, their mystagogical (liturgical) interpretation
- "anagogic mystagogy"-
does seem to have prevailed in our liturgical and mission praxis. The
alleged influence of the neoplatonic philosophy on the Areopagitic writings
is of much lesser importance than its catalytic effect on what we
call eucharistic ecclesiology of the Church and consequently on spirituality
and mission. V.Lossky insists that the orthodoxy of the writings of the
Areopagite cannot be questioned (The Vision of God, 1983, p. 99; cf.
also his influential work The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church.
1976. On the other hand, all Orthodox theologians who are in favor of a
liturgical renewal are critical to the theology of Pseudo-Dionysius (cf.
J.Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology. Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes,
[1974¹] 1987² pp. 28,202ff; G.Florovsky, “Øåõäï-Äéïíõóßïõ
Ýñãá,” ÈHE vol.
XII. col. 473-480;
A.Schmemann, Introduction, pp.
150åî· 232åî· etc.; P.Meyendorff, Saint Germanus of
Constantinople ïn the Divine Liturgy , 1984).
E.Boulard, «L’ eucharistie d’après le Pseudo-Denys l’Aréopagite»,
BLE 58 (1957) 193-217
and 59 (1958) 129-69.
eminent Roman Catholic liturgiologist, R. Taft., to whom eastern liturgical
scholarship is heavily indebted (cf. his The Great Entrance. A History of
the Transfer of Gifts and Other Pre-anaphoral Rites of the Liturgy of St.
John Chrysostom, [1975¹], 1978²; «How Liturgies Grow: The
Evolution of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy», OCP 43  óåë. 357ff; The Liturgy of the Hours in the
Christian East, 1988 etc),
rightly maintains that in the dionysian system there is little room for the
biblical tradition; the anagogic allegory is the one that dominates. Liturgy
is nothing but an allegory of the journey of the soul from the separation
and division of sin towards divine communion, through the process of
catharsis, enlightenment and wholeness, which are prescribed in the rites.
There is very little reference to Christ's economy on earth, and nothing
about his incarnate mediation, or his death and resurrection. (R.Taft,«The
Liturgy..», pp. 61-2. For a thorough critical consideration of the
eucharistology of the areopagites see R.Roques, L’univers dionysien.
Structure hiérarchique du monde selon le Pseudo-Denys, 1954).
Therefore, in this system the need for a mediating "hierarchy"
became inevitable. This reminds us, mutatis mutandis, of Paul's
opponents at Colossae, and also marks the latent return of a mediatory
priesthood (H.Wybrew, The Orthodox Liturgy. The Development of the
Eucharisatic Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite, 1989, and the SVS press 1990
edition with a prologue by Bishop K. Ware), p. 115) in christian
ecclesiology of East and, especially, West (cf. P.- M.Gy, «Liturgy and
Spirituality: II. Sacraments and Liturgy in Latin Christianity», B.McGinn -
J.Meyendorff (eds.), Christian Spirituality I. Origins to the Twelfth
Century, 1985, 365-381). But this was something which according to the
fundamental teaching of Hebrews had been abolished åöÜðáî (once and
for all) by Christ's sacrifice on the Cross.
Theology, p. 207.
«The Liturgy of the Great Church», p.. 62.
Hier., III 3,13.
should not, of course, concentrate all criticism only on
the Alexandrian mystagogical school. The Antiochian school, the other
great school of liturgical interpretation in the East, has also contributed,
though indirectly, to the abandonment of dynamic horizontal biblical
eschatology, with all that this eschatology implies for mission. Its
attention, certainly, was turned more toward history, but not with any
strong eschatological perspective, thus interpreting the Divine Liturgy
mainly as a depiction of the Lord's presence on earth.
Schmemann, The Eucharist. Sacrament of the Kingdom, 1988; also his The
Great Lent. Journey to Pascha, 1974.
“The Church which Presides in Love”.
«Liturgy and Eucharist. I East», J.Raitt-B.McGinn-J.Meyendorff (eds.),Christian
Spirituality. II, 415-426, p. 417.
in one of his latest contributions tried to address the issue of the
“Symbols and Symbolism in the Byzantine Liturgy: Liturgical Symbols and
their Theological Interpretation” (in D. Constantelos [ed.], Orthodox
Theology and Diakonia, 1981,
pp. 91-102; also in T.Fisch [ed.], Liturgy and Tradition. Theological
Reflections of A.Schmemann, 1990, pp. 115-128), and he rightly pointed
out that “the Eucharistic divine liturgy opposed, at least in the
essential expressions of its form and spirit, the extremely powerful
pressures of the various symbolic interpretations and reductions” (p.
Goodman, in his recent book (Mission and Conversion. Proselytizing in the
Religious History of the Roman Empire, 1994) has drawn our attention to
four different understandings of what has come to be labeled as “christian
mission”: (i) The “informative mission”, the aim of which was to tell
people something, rather than to change their behavior or status. (of this
type was the mission of the first evangelist women). (ii) The “educational
mission”, with the aim to educate rather than to win converts (the first
monastics exercised this type of mission). (iii) The “apologetic
mission”, the aim of which was to request recognition by others without
expecting to devote themselves to the new religion (the early christian
apologists belonged to this type of mission). Finally, (iv) the
“proselytizing mission”. According to Goodman, “information,
education, and apologetic might or might not coexist within any one
religious system, but all three can individually be distinguished from what
may best be described a proselytizing...(the aim of which was) to encourage
outsiders not only to change their way of life but also to be incorporated
within their group” (pp. 3f.). No doubt, this last type of mission, for
which the terms “conversion” and “christianization” seem to apply
better, was the ideal behind the universal proselytizing mission of
modern times. The origins of this type of mission can be traced back to St.
Paul (though in scholarly circles this is still debated), and to the
dominical saying recorded in St. Matthew’s Gospel (28:18b-20).
an early survey by an orthodox missiologist see (Archbishop of Albania)
Anastasios Yannoulatos, Various Christian Approaches to the Other
Religions. A Historical Outline, 1971.
needs to be reminded of the variety of terms involved in current
missiological discussions, such as mission, conversion, evangelism or
evangelization, christianization, witness
or martyria. Of
these terms only the last two are appropriate to our Orthodox theology and
practice, and have been widely adopted in “ecumenical” circles as the
more relevant to a genuine and authentic christian mission (cf. the most
important documents and books on the issue: e.g. Common Witness. A Joint
Document of the Working Group of the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC,
1982; the relevant to our subject document Common Witness and
Proselytism; also I.Bria
[ed.], Martyria-Mission, 1980), whereas the imperative validity of
all the other have been retained as the sine qua non of the christian
identity of those belonging to the “evangelical” stream of the christian
tradition. Cf. the tension in the recent history of the world christian
mission, which resulted in the tragic separation and the eventual formation
of the Lausanne Movement for World Evangelization.
comes from the famous passage in Acts 4:12.
the relation of mission to dialogue, as well as the repeatedly expressed
concern over “syncretism” see K.Raiser, Ecumenism in
Transition, pp. 55ff; also the partisan work from the “old paradigm”
by W.A.Visser’t Hooft, No Other Name: The Choice between Syncretism and
Christian Universalism, 1963.
on this in J.Zizioulas, Being as Communion, pp. 123ff.
A.I.C.Herton (ed.), The Forgotten Trinity, 1991.