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EMILIANOS TIMIADIS [Metropolitan of Silyvria]

Saint Photios on Transcendence of Culture

George Papademetriou (ed.), Photian Studies, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, Brookline, Mass., c1989


ΙΝ ΤHΕ YEAR 858 Photios assumed his Patriarchal office in the midst of many internal difficulties, fully aware of the burdensome pastoral responsibilities. But at the same time, he found a serious split between the East and West. Ιn spite of the official declarations οn full communion, unfortunately, there was not an identity of views οn many doctrinal issues, identity of views being a distinctive mark of the undivided universal Church. Unity was already obscured, with many alterations of more or less importance. A slow process of differentiation and estrangement for centuries was slowly undermining the fellowship. Mistrust and suspicion were felt, influencing all sectors of life in both Churches: liturgy, canonical structures, theological language, way of thinking and of formulating doctrines, religious art, and canonical relations between the two sister Churches.

--Psychological alienation gradually entered, as it ought nοt to have, in the sphere of ecclesiastical order and discipline. Thus, the nοn-theological factors heavily influenced the purely theologica1 ones. We see in the alienation of the Churches of the East and West that division is engendered when unsolved, contentious issues remain unresolved, and when the two partners at odds postpone prayerful, humble dialogue. Of course, delegates from the papacy were regularly attending the convened synods in Byzantium, but their participation was rather cool; they were feeling isolated and like strangers, often unable to follow the debates of the Greek speaking Fathers, and considering most of the matter discussed irreleνant to their minds.

When we speak of rupture or schism during the Photian patriarchate, we must be realistic. Such rupture began with small issues but, in the course of time, grew. Historical events were worsening rather than healing the prevailing misunderstandings and mutual suspicion. Cool relations widened the gap and made East and West practically twο worlds distanced by growing divergences.

Today, we are in a much better position. Roman Catholics and Orthodox meet more often. There is a promising ongoing theological dialogue. And, since Vatican ΙΙ, many impartial books have been written in a conciliatory spirit.

The situation in the days of Photios was as follows: οn the essentials of οur faith, there was unity with a certain diversity and pluralism in formulation. Each local church was accommodating the common faith in the setting of its situation, history, culture, local tradition, and customs. Το such diversity, at least in the East, by each particular church, Photios refers using typical terms: "διαφοpά, ανομοιοτnς εν ιεpουpγίες, ετεpότnς, παpαλλαγή την ενοειδή χάpιν ου διεκώλυσεν."(1) From such language, we see that while the East was emphasizing unity in the essentials, the West was overstating the morphology of this unity, seeking one and the same expression of faith and liturgy through the unique official language imposed, Latin.


1. - Amphilochia Guaest. 105, PG 101.949 and Letter 2, PG 102.605.

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