Trinitarian Structure, Lay Responsibility and Infallibility

‘If we suppose that we have a center that cannot err, matters change radically in the Church. Everything is degraded to the level of worldly existence. Things move mechanically, regulated from the outside. We return to the curse of the law. The whole architecture of the Church is put out of shape…The responsibility of the laity is diminished or done away with entirely. Theology, instead of being a “mystery” clearly delivered to the Church, becomes an individual intellectual concern. Dogma no longer serves as a guide for life, nor does life lead to the open door of the truth which frees.

The suffering and the struggle inherent in the universal responsibility of the laity is something which has cost and continues to cost dearly. It is painful for the whole body of the Church, and for this very reason leads to salvation. This is because, in a way that is conscious and recognised, it leads everyone as a community and as persons to spiritual maturity and adulthood in Christ. In this spirit of responsibility, faith matures and theology is born, The truth is made flesh within us, as freedom become tangible: “We who are many are one body and one spirit” (1 Cor 10:17).

We are bound together by the common faith which, in accordance with tradition, each of us has found and finds personally through the exercise of his own responsibility-“so each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom 14:12)-and through the communion of the Holy Spirit. The Church leaves the believer free to feel Christ dwelling within him; free to live in fear on the sea of the present age; free to be crushed by his resposibility; free to cry out to the Lord, “Master we perish,” and to see Him in the night of the present age, walking on the waters for him personally and for the whole Church; and free to hear the Lord say to him, “It is I.”

…It is a mysterious presence of God made man, which surpasses firm administration, world conquest or history. It is a certainty for man, given by God. It is an expansion of our being to His dimensions, a process whereby what is mortal is swallowed up in life.

This unconfused and indivisible interpenetration of life and certainty, of the laity and responsibility, of freedom and unity, constitutes the source of renewal in the Church. Here we see the operation of the Trinitarian “leaven” of the Kingdom of God, which no one can impede and which sanctifies and renews all things, making them pass through unceasing trials:…

Every believer is called to live theologically, and the whole body of the Church is creating theology in its life and its struggle. Thus the ex cathedra of Orthodoxy, the way in which it expresses itself infallibly, is from the Cross. The responsibility that is spread over the whole body of the people is a cross…The spiritual life of each believer which provides the overall balance is a cross. On the Cross, the Lord “stretched out His hands and united what had previously been sundered.”

The infallibility on which the Vatican prides itself is a disruption of the trinitarian structure of the Church’s ecclesiology and spirituality. Orthodoxy cannot accept the dogma of Rome’s infallibility without denying itself. It could not accept it without living it; all the dogmas of the Church have been embodied in its worship and have formed and set their seal on its life. Supposing that the Church did accept it and lived it consistently, as it lives all the other dogmas, it would then cease to exist. The Church itself would cease to live. This dogma of infallibility is one that the Western Church has manufactured in its own way. This is a dogma which no Church can live in a way that is Orthodox; it brings about the paralysis of the whole body of the Church.’

Ecclesiology and spirituality have the same basis: dogma. The Church is Christ, His body living in history. It is summarised in each of the faithful, who is the Church in miniature. The personal consciousness of each of the faithful has an ecclesial dimension, and every problem of the Church is the problem of the personal salvation of each of the faithful.

Archimandrite Vasileios in Hymn of Entry pgs 50-52.

9 Responses to Trinitarian Structure, Lay Responsibility and Infallibility

  1. One aspect of lay responsibility is the use of St Vincent’s Canon, which is the universal rule for distinguishing heresy from truth. Its use is in consistent with the responsibility of the faithful and not with an unerring centre of truth. Thus laity using the Canon to determine whether a particular is teaching heresy is an act of responsibility, which, from the above, is an inescapable aspect of a genuine Christian life. It is a cross that must be borne. This is contrary to the notion that a Christian has only to follow the unerring centre of the Church. This does not require theological responsibility apart from the acceptance of the unerring centre as such and obedience to it.

    Why an unerring centre insufficient? A Christian must grow to perfection in his entire life, in every aspect “You therefore be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matt 5:40 “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all arrive to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we may no longer be infants, being tossed as by waves, and being carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in regard to deceitful scheming, but speaking the truth in love, we may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ–from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the working of the measure of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the edification of itself in love.” (Eph 4:11-16) All the faithful grow into the fullness of Christ and by the way of the cross. We are all left with trials in every aspect because it is through these that we grow, without such trials we remain children and fail to grow into the fullness of Christ. Also, we each supply to the building of the whole body, so our responsibility extends not only to our own learning but that of the entire body. Although not all are apostles, Popes, Patriarchs or teachers, we all share in the growth of the body as it is our own body. But we must do all in love. An unerring centre removes the responsibility of each and all. There is no need for this responsibility because the faith of the centre is always sure. Thus we cannot all live this responsibility and we cannot all grow fully into Christ because all dogmas point to Christ, not as a concept but as the One in whom all live in fullness. We live the dogma because the dogma is Christ. Every aspect of life in Christ is shared by all. Thus an unerring centre is not just a disincentive for responsibility it precludes the laity from the fullness of responsibility regarding the faith and hence the fullness of life in Christ. The Church ceases to live, to exist; it dies.(Note: this does not remove the order of the Church into its various ministries and orders. Not everyone is an apostle or priest, not everyone is permitted to teach publicly, nor to offer the Eucharist in the Liturgy but all may teach in private, all offer themselves in sacrifice personally in their daily lives. We all share in the life of the Church but the public aspects are restricted to those called to show forth the fullness of the Mystery of the Church in Christ. An infallible centre is not able to be shared in private but each and all. Neither does this negate the infallibility of the Church or the surety of the Faith. It places this is Christ, whose infallibility is manifest in the weakness of man without losing His infallibility or the freedom of man. All men support each other in love so that through this love we may grow into Christ. An unerring centre does not need support and so puts itself apart from this bond of mutual love and the unity of the faithful.)

  2. Ben says:

    Long excerpts of the book are in the Google book database.

  3. Death Bredon says:

    Perhaps the easiest way to solve the “filioque problem” is the way it was solved by the See of Rome (before it permanently fell into Germanic hands) and the rest of the Church in the Eighth Council of 879/80.

    It would seem that even Roman-Institutional-Infalibilists should have a hard time ignoring this Council, which Rome held dogmatically from 879 until about the Hildebrand’s “reforms.”

  4. Rob Grano says:

    Jack — the rest of the book is indeed that good. It’s one of my all time favorite Orthodox books; I read it at least once a year. I believe that it communicates what Fr. Seraphim Rose called ‘the savour of Orthodoxy’ as well as anything out there.

  5. Jack says:

    A quote from the Liturgy from Father Freeman’s site makes my point:

    “Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess: Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the Trinity, one in essence, and undivided.”

  6. Jack says:

    Holy Orthodoxy, Batman!

    That is a wonderful quote. I wonder, is the rest of the book that good? Let me attempt to narrow it down to one sentence: The Church, which is the faithfilled members, is literally the Body of Christ God, the Temple in which the Holy Divine Spirit perceptibly abides. If this is not true than Christianity is an earnest farce.

    The RC papal dogmas seem to make personal dogmatic experience irrelevant. Knowledge becomes detached from direct sensible spiritual experience of grace through prayer, worship, and virtue and transforms itself into ideology.

  7. The Scylding says:

    To centre the locus of infallibility in a particular office can certainly give occasion to the individual believer to surrender responsibility in matter other than physical obedience. Whether that is an inevitable response is not conclusive – I think it depends on the believer. However, I have seen the same attitude in certain protestant sects, where infallibility is implied, though not formalised. Infallibility is often an attribute applied by followers. As such, it can happen in any church situation. Therefore, it is better to approach these issues through theological and ecclesiastical discussions, not thorough the attitudes of believers as individuals.

  8. ochlophobist says:

    “All the dogmas of the Church have been embodied in its worship and have formed and set their seal on its life.”

    This captures perfectly why it is I believe the RCC must reject, formally, the filioque. I have now encountered at least 6 or 7 RC theologians, including Mike L, who believe that the RCC should follow the SCOBA directives with regard to the filioque. Those directives are certainly a start but they, in themselves, will not lead to re-unity. Mike and others like him believe that the RCC should take the filioque out of regular use in the recitation of the creed, both in worship use and in formal Church documents, and this should be done as a sign of unity. But these same Catholics believe that the dogmatic commitments to the filioque would remain intact for the RCC. They seem to see this as a compromise in which they are bending over backwards in order to make us happy, and thus it must be some supreme arrogance which would cause an Orthodox such as myself to think it largely, in the end, a distortion and waste of time. I think so largely for reasons having to do with the above quote. The last thing the RCC needs at this point is another case in which they have divorced dogma from praxis. If they hold the filioque to be dogma then they should recite the filioque. It would be better for them, even being wrong, if they did. To cease to recite the filioque while holding to their dogmatic commitments to it only strengthens that which is destroying the RCC, a spirit in which a believer must go to some abstract other to find his dogma, because it is not to be found, fully and correctly, in the worship and normative life of the RCC. It makes absolutely no sense, in the Orthodox mind, to have dogmas “on the books” which play no part in the normative worship and life of the Church. This spirit of abstraction is anathema to Orthodoxy, and so long as RCs use it to attempt to bring themselves closer to Orthodoxy, no matter what the change in praxis is, they will only result in further isolating themselves from the Orthodox Church.

  9. Sophocles says:

    Holy Orthodoxy.

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