Negotiating the Filioque
Posted by  on August 16, 2005
If we say there is an “Orthodox filioque”, let us also say there is an Orthodox blasphemy, and Orthodox Satanism, and Orthodox Protestantism, etc., for words no longer have meaning. It would be better to cease pretending that manipulation of semantics will cover up the fact that the object of worship, from ourselves to the Latins, is entirely different.
To say that the filioque is no matter, that it is just a word, is to cover ones eyes and ears, turn off the mind, and willfully ignore not only the break in apostolic succession but also the entire world of thought that generated and to this day sustains the filioque, whether or not the word continues.
To those who say we have no significant differences in dogma, this pretends to redefine Christianity along Protestant and Roman Catholic lines, as a body of essential dogmas; it is heresy as surely as is the filioque. Such thinking proposes unity over some agreed statements or else substitues presumably shared aspects of the different traditions for the fulness of the Church, and seeks union on the basis of those shared aspects rather than in the fulness of the Faith.
The notion of a “sister Church” is not only dishonest, using tricks of language to permit multiple and contradictory ecclesiologies, it is but the “branch theory” heresy repackaged and sold to those who in weakness seek the approbation of the world, desiring to fit in, or who look for an excuse to make life easier. Our faith should not require us to be either weakminded, dishonest, or tyrannized by fashion.
Lastly, to those heterodox who proclaim that the filioque no longer separates us, citing the 1965 “lifting of anathema” by Patriarch Athenagoras of unhappy memory (Constantinople), don’t be deceived. Show me the Bishop that communicates with you, and I will show you one who is not communicated by us. We do not share in the same cup with you or, more accurately, you do not share in the true cup of Christ. To hold your view, it is necessary for you to substitute your ecclesiology for ours, which is why you have never understood our actions. The original anathema of 1054 did not make us two separate Churches; there has always been one Church, and it is Orthodox. Lifting that anathema does not change that recognition.
The original separation, from a formal standpoint, began to occur in 1014, when the Roman Bishop was removed from the dyptichs, the prayers of remembrance of Orthodox patriarchs. This occured becausen the filioque had been sung liturgically in the Roman see. That is a primary moment in which an Orthodox Bishop translated the reality of the situation into liturgical practice. The separation in reality occurred both before and after this, as a process, and proceeds to this very day, the Roman See ever moving away from us in continual progression, however much discussions of friendship are conducted. The anathema on the papal delegation of 1054 was merely one more expression of the real separation expressed liturgically to this day by exclusion of any Roman See from the dyptichs.
Furthermore, separation is not merely *created* by a legal act, nor can union be accomplished by one. In reality, there are two different religions, and no decision can make them one. There could be only the conversion and redemption of the one or else the destruction of the other. If the separation were based merely on anathema, then one must overturn the Council of 879-880, which anathematized anyone who would compose another confession of faith than the creed of the council of 381, the apostolic creed (without the filioque). Then too, one would need to overturn all anathemas against heresies held among Roman Catholics. Even then, there is no union until the heresies themselves, not the anathemas against them, are overturned. Even then, Orthodoxy is not a matter of the mere absence of heresies, but rather it is the fullness of the Body of Christ. Participation is not the mere absence of hereterodoxy coupled with the presence of some ‘essentials’. Let us invite those in apostasy to come into the fulness of the Christian religion.
Finally, the Patriarch of Constantinople is often thought, by the West, to be the Orthodox “Pope”, but he is not. All Bishops and all Churches in Holy Orthodoxy are equal in authority to that one, even if there is inequality of honor. Even if the Patriarch of Constantinople were to communicate with the heterodox, the only Orthodox who would follow him into schism would be those who continue to commune or concelebrate with him. Let me choke on any cup served by those who pretend the wine of schism is that of union.
If you say that the anathema of 1054 was a local decision, you are right, so then overturning it can be nothing but a local decision, having no ecumenical character. If you say the anathema was accepted by the whole church, you are right, so then no one Bishop can overturn that on behalf of others. In either character, a mere decision cannot mend schism let alone turn apostasy into faith or heterodoxy into Holy Orthodoxy; it can only create more schism, apostasy, and heterodoxy, maginfying the original problem rather than resolving it.
Let us pray fervently for the salvation of those who call themselves Christians but have neither the Father nor Christ, through whom the Holy Spirit is sent to us in the economy, and let us never hinder their salvation by referring in our theology to any other name than that of the Father unbegotten, the Son begotten, and the Spirit from the Father alone proceeding.
Another aspect is the veneration of saints. One can recognize Orthodoxy in part in which saints are venerated and which are not. Orthodox do not venerate Charlemagne, Paulinus of Aquilea, or Nicholas I, any more than Roman Catholics venerate St. Photius, or St. Mark of Ephesus. For either event to occur, must involve a denial of the very things for which these have always been venerated, and that is no veneration at all.