Response to Munich Document

A Response to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church Regarding the Munich Document: "The Mystery of the Church and of the Eucharist in the Light of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity"

U.S. Theological Consultation, 1980

  1. The Munich common statement of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church regarding "The Mystery of the Church and of the Eucharist in the Light of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity," dated July 6, 1982, is a landmark in the recent history of Orthodox/Roman Catholic relations. The text is a creative statement about the high degree of agreement that already exists between the two churches. The Commission deserves commendation for its achievement. What follows is a response to the text on the part of the Orthodox/Roman Catholic Consultation in the United States established by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of America (SCOBA) and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) which was reached unanimously at its 26th meeting, May 23-25, 1983 in New York.

  2. That a joint statement was published by the Commission is in itself an important achievement. The text moves us farther away from our history of mutual estrangement and allows the churches to speak with one voice on matters at the heart of the Christian faith. The decision to publish the text promptly for wider reaction was welcome. We hope that this procedure will be continued in the future.

  3. The text requires careful reading, and to some its language may seem unfamiliar, despite many biblical and liturgical allusions. A clear attempt is made not to impose specific terminologies of either Roman Catholic or Orthodox theology. Rather, the text appropriately uses new formulations as needed in order to hand on the faith to men and women of our time. For example, use of the word "event" (événement, to gegonos) found in I, 1, bis; I, 2; I, 3; I, 4b; I, 5d, para. 2; II, 1, para. 3; II, 2, para. 3, is helpful in stressing the work of the Trinity. However, this word as well as others such as "sacrament," "mystery," "word," and "energies," are open to various interpretations and thus call for further elucidations.

  4. We have several suggestions which, if followed, might facilitate discussion and assessment of this and future documents.

    1. It is not always clear to whom the document is addressed. If addressed to the Church at large, then much in the text is inaccessible.

    2. Criticism of omissions or overemphases could often be forestalled if the document were situated within the context of the long-range agenda of the Commission. The publication of an annotated text of this agenda would be appreciated.

    3. Publication of commentaries or background papers by the Commission would be helpful in explicating the document and would make it more accessible to non-specialists.

    4. In formulating texts, a more systematic and consistent numbering of paragraphs would be desirable.

    5. The document itself recognizes that this is but "the first step in the effort to fulfill the program." It is to be hoped therefore that this text will be reformulated in the light of critical responses and the developments of other sections of the dialogue. This process has proved extremely useful in other international dialogues.

  5. Our Consultation took note of several specific doctrinal themes raised in the document. In discussing the synaxis, or eucharistic celebration (especially in I, 5, b, c and I, 6), the text states clearly that the eucharistic celebration is the anamn‘sis of the work of Christ as savior made manifest by the Spirit, but also that the Spirit transforms the sacred gifts into the body of Christ in order to effect the growth of the Body of Christ which is the Church. Particularly welcome are the assertions that "the entire (eucharistic) celebration is an epicl‘sis, which becomes more explicit at certain moments" and that "the Church is continually in a state of epicl‘sis (I, 5, c).

  6. The formulation of the relationship between the Son and the Spirit (I, 6, para. 2), though it does not address the filioque question directly, does state that "the Spirit which proceeds from the Father (Jn 15:26) as the sole source in the Trinity ... is communicated to us particularly in the eucharist by this Son upon whom he reposes in time and eternity." The text thus gives a solid basis for further statements about the Spirit in the treatment of the mission of the Spirit. Indeed the entire section which discusses the relation of the Spirit's activity to the historical mission of Christ and to the mystery of the Risen Christ (I, 4 to I, 6) is well formulated.

  7. Collegiality and the synodal nature of the church are affirmed by the references to "communion in the same patriarchate" or "in some other form of regional unity" or "communion between sister churches" (III, 3, 6), as well as to a bishop's "solicitude for the local community" and "his care for the Church spread throughout the world" (III, 4, para. 2). However, the appeal to the term "sister churches" is unclear. Does it refer to patriarchates or jurisdictions in full communion or to the special relationship between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church?

  8. The expression the "episkop‘ of the entire Church" (III, 4, para. 2) needs further exploration in the context of the separated Christian churches. The way in which the document focuses on the "local church" through eucharistic ecclesiology does not readily correspond to the actual situation of bishops and their churches today. Although this model offers some useful insights, the character, numerical size, and geographical extent of most local churches makes application problematic.

  9. Regarding the office of episkopos and other institutions, such as ordination and sacramental practices, the text does not pay sufficient attention to historical development, creating an impression of oversimplification. For example, the appeal to the "uninterrupted series of episcopal ordinations, beginning from the holy apostles" (II, 3), or the "college of the apostles" (III, 4, para. 2) needs refinement. Other statements about apostolicity and apostolic faith are better developed, as in II, 4, para. 2. Further, the use of New Testament texts lacks rigor and does not coincide with the requirements of responsible historical-critical scholarship.

  10. The text should have discussed the diversity of ministries within the one body (cf. II, 1, para. 4); likewise, some reference to the priesthood proper to all the faithful would have been in order. The relation between the bishop's ministerial priesthood and that of all the faithful is not adequately explored. The relation of the bishop and the presbyter is not sufficiently addressed. We hope that significant aspects of these major problems will be addressed in future documents.

  11. The sections of the document regarding kerygmatic aspects of koinonia and its relationship to the "unity in faith" (II, 2, para. 3) and "communion in the same kerygma, and so in the same faith" (III, 3, b, para. 2) need clarification. It is not always apparent that the text sufficiently distinguishes between faith (or credal) affirmations and theological explanations about faith that need not require unanimity.

  12. The document is open to criticism for not sufficiently recognizing the social dimensions of church and eucharist. It seems to prescind from concrete social problems. When mention is made of social issues, this seems to be an afterthought (e.g., II, 4, para. 3). When the text mentions the transformative aspects of church and eucharist, this is usually in the context of individual repentance, conversion, self sacrifice (cf. I, 6, par a. 3; II, 1, para. 3; II, 2, para. 2). It neglects the Christian's vocation to contribute to the transformation of society (I, 1).

  13. The sections which discuss the eucharist should situate it more clearly in the context of Christian initiation and the total sacramental life of the Church. It is encouraging therefore that the International Commission has taken as its next task the study of the sacraments of baptism, chrismation and the eucharist and the unity of the Church.
Jamaica, NY
May 25, 1983
26th Meeting


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Teachings of Christ

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?" (Mark 8:34-37 ESV)

This Week's Scripture

November 12, 2017
Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost
- Matins: Matthew 28:16-20 (Gospel 1)
- Liturgy: Ephesians 2.4-10, Luke 8:26-39 (Slavs), Luke 8:41-46 (Greeks)

Twenty-Fourth Week After Pentecost
- Monday: 1 Thessalonians 2:20-3:8, Luke 14:12-15
- Tuesday: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 14:25-35
- Wednesday: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, Luke 15:1-10
- Thursday: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8, Luke 16:1-9
- Friday: 1 Thessalonians 5:9-13,24-28, Luke 16:15-18,17:1-4
- Saturday: 2 Corinthians 11:1-6, Luke 9:57-62

November 19, 2017
Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
- Matins: Mark 16:1-8 (Matins Gospel 2)
- Liturgy: Ephesians 2:4-22, Luke 12:16-21

Twenty-Fifth Week After Pentecost
- Monday: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-10, Luke 17:20-25

November 21, 2017
Feast of the Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple
- Vespers: Exodus 40, 3(1) Kings 7,8, Ezekiel 43:27-44:4
- Matins: Luke 17:26-37
- Liturgy: Hebrews 9:1-7, Luke 10:38-42, 11:27-28

- Tuesday: 2 Thessalonians 1:10-2:2, Luke 17:26-37, 18:8
- Wednesday: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Luke 18:15-17, 26-30
- Thursday: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5, Luke 18:31-34
- Friday: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18, Luke 19:12-28
- Saturday: Galatians 1:3-10, Luke 10:19-21

November 26, 2017
Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
- Matins: Mark 16:9-20 (Gospel 3)
- Liturgy: Ephesians 4:1-6, Luke 13:10-17 (Slavs), Luke 18:18-27 (Greeks)

Feasts & Fasts

8 - Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers
11 - Veterans' Day (USA), Remembrance Day (Canada)
15 - Nativity Fast (Philip's Fast also known as Advent)
21 - The Entry of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple
23 - Thanksgiving Day (USA)

6 - St Nicholas the Wonderworker and Archbishop of Myra in Lycia
9 (8) - The Conception of the Most Holy Mother of God by the Righteous Anna
12 - Our Lady of Guadalupe
17 - Second Sunday Before Christmas (Holy Forefathers)
24 - Sunday Before Christmas (Holy Fathers) / Christmas Eve
25 - The Nativity of our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ
26 - Synaxis of the Most Holy Mother of God, Boxing Day (Canada)
27 - First-Martyr and Archdeacon Stephen
28 - 20,000 Martyrs of Nicomedia
29 - 14,000 Infants (the Holy Innocents) Slain by Herod at Bethlehem
31 - Sunday after Christmas: Commemoration of the Holy Righteous David the King, Joseph the Betrothed, and James the Brother of the Lord

Please pray!

"They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword...." (Hebrews 11:37a)

Please lift up in prayer all those who are persecuted and deprived of liberty, everywhere in the world. Please especially remember the peoples of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Niger - the whole Middle East and Africa - who are literal martyrs for Christ. Also the peoples of Ukraine. They are our brothers, for all are one in Christ.

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Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple

Today is the prelude of the goodwill of God * and the heralding of the salvation of mankind; * the Virgin appears clearly in the temple of God * and foretells Christ to all. * Let us also with a mighty voice cry out to her: * “Rejoice, O Fulfillment of the Creator’s divine plan.” (Troparion - Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

The most pure Temple of the Savior, * the most precious Bridal-Chamber and Virgin, the sacred Treasury of the glory of God, * is brought today into the house of the Lord, * bringing with her the grace that is in the Divine Spirit. * The angels of God praise her in song: * “She is the heavenly tabernacle.” (Kontakion - Tone 4)

(November 21st)

Random Proverb

"Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you." (Proverbs 3:28 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Let not us who would be Christians expect anything else than to be crucified....for to be Christian is to be crucified in this time and in any time since Christ came for the first time. His life is the example and warning to us all. We must be crucified personally,mystically; for trough crucifixion is the only path to resurrection, if we would rise with Christ, we must be humbled with him even to the ultimate humiliation, being devoured and spit forth by the uncomprehending world.... We must be crucified outwardly in the eyes of the world, for Christ's kingdom is not of this world and world cannot bear it, even a single representative, even for the single moment.

Fr Seraphim Rose