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#362642 04/03/11 09:17 PM
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Christ is in our midst!! He is and always will be!!

I attended a lecture by a Russian Orthodox priest at university wherein he explained that there is not a rigid definition in Orthodox theology of what the West knows as "sacrament" and "sacramental." He went on to explain that all of the channels of grace God has provided in Christ and in His Church can be considered sacramental. I later read that certain Byzantine writers have added the Burial Service and the Coronation of Kings to their list of what the West would call sacraments. The many blessings that the Church has are also ways and means of bringing to the minds of believers--and into their lives--the immediacy of the line from a hymn I once heard: "God is with us, understand this and submit yourselves . . . for God is with us."

I would appreciate learning in this section from our brethren, especially the reverend clergy, more about this approach to the Mystery of God continuing to live among His people even to the end of the age as He promised.

In Christ,

Bob

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Dear Theophan,

I would be very interested to hear what Byzantine Catholics think about this.

Innumerability of the Holy Sacraments

In my mind there is no doubt that my tonsuring as a monk was just as much one of the holy Mysteries as my baptism and my ordination.

This is the tradition I received from my Church, from my bishop, from the monk and archimandrite who tonsured me on a snowy winter night in the presence of dozens of monks and nuns and this tradition is held by every single monk and nun I have ever met, whether in Serbia or on Mount Athos -- and I am not inclined to reject what my brethren believe. (Nor will I muddy the waters by an attempted distinction between Sacraments and Sacramentals which is bringing in a Roman Catholic distinction unknown to Eastern Christians.)

There is no Council accepted by the Easterners which has defined or limited the Sacraments to seven. The entire Tradition works against such an idea.

Has anyone here mentioned that the first official pronouncement of 7 and only 7 Sacraments in the West is found at the Council of Florence as late as the 15th century. Prior to that the number in the West wavered a great deal and at one time it was as high as 15. The Eastern Church continues on, without being hampered by any Council to the contrary, in that same happy and nebulous numerical state which we shared with Catholics until the 15th century.

I think that someone here once quoted a Catholic Byzantine monk from Australia and here are his words again:

"The sacraments are essentially the irruption into
time and space of the Mystery of Salvation, that is,
the Mystery of God's love and life.

"The mysteries are described as the Divine touching
the Created, a kind of grace-filled event, having
nothing to do with the whatness, whereness, whenness
of the happening. Rather, it marks God's creation
of a new reality -- as in a new creature in Christ Jesus."


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Father Ambrose:

Father bless!!

When I started this thread, I'd forgotten that the third experience of grace mentioned in the piece was monastic tonsure. Forgive me; I'd read it quite a few years ago.

Thank you for your input.

I've often wondered when we have those "Aha" moments aren't of the same cloth: God reaches out and "connects the dots" for us: those times when the Gospel suddenly becomes something that really hits us where we live and becomes our own.

Asking for your blessing and continued holy prayers,

Bob

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Christ is Risen!

Counting up some of the sacred things which we see as Mysteries....

1. Baptism

2. Chrismation

3. Eucharist

4. Confession

5. Crowning

6. Holy Orders

7. Prayer Oil

8. Tonsure (of monk or nun)

9. Blessing of Theophany Water (Agiasmo)

10. Consecration of Church

11. Anointing of Monarch

12. Funeral Absolution

13. .... ?

Some would include icons.






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Father Ambrose:

Father bless!! Chrsit is Risen!!

An interesting item--#12. I've been in funeral service long enough to remember the time when a Latin Catholic Funeral Mass ended with a Final Absolution for the departed. This has been removed from practice sometime between 1969 and 1974 and no one has been able to tell me the reason.

Additionally, the absolution that used to take place at the beginning of the Liturgy has been removed, though I note that in the Syriac and Armenian practice described in a link to an internet comparison of those Divine Liturgies absolution is given prior to the reception of the Holy Mysteries. So it is apparently a custom of great antiquity.

Asking for your blessing and continued holy prayers,

Bob

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If we would broaden the understanding of "Sacraments" then would it not be broadened to other Churches with their encounters with God?

If so, would it not include their "born again" experience, or their "conversion."

It seems to me that recognized sacraments (Mysteries) need official Church affirmation, otherwise the door is certainly open to recognize our Evangelical brethern's encounters with God as more than Christian witness.

Wouldn't you agree?


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Paul:

The point of this section was to examine the Christian East's approach to the Mystery of God among us. In the West that Mystery has been defined to be in seven distinct parts. The Christian East has had a less rigid definition and the answer to how many blessed events in the life of a believer qualify in the same way as the seven defined in the West is what we are exploring here. What happens in the West that is not part of the traditional seven sacament definition is subject for another place.

Bob

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I guess I departed from the main subject, but my point is: Doesn't the Church set parameters for what a Mystery is? If you don't, then who will set the limits? In previous ages communication and expression were very limited; but now expression can proliferate beyond control.
The attraction of Orthodoxy is its holding to early church doctrines; this maintenance of Tradition can become diluted if there is an unbridled expression of diverse ideas.

The discussions which have taken place here on byzcath.org show there already is an broadening diversity. What or who will hold it all together?

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Paul:

I'm sorry that my reply disappeared into the memory hole and I have to go for now. Back later.

Bob

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Originally Posted by Paul B
I guess I departed from the main subject, but my point is: Doesn't the Church set parameters for what a Mystery is? If you don't, then who will set the limits?
Our Eastern Church acknowledges at least seven major Sacraments (Mysteries). She has never defined a maximum number. She also acknowledges a number of lesser Sacraments (Mysteries), of which she also has not formally defined a maximum number.

Don't forget that the Latins sometimes define things a bit differently. For us a Sacrament is simply to make holy. A Mystery is mysterious. We never put limits on the Lord's grace and blessing.

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The 15th decree of The Confession of Dositheus from the Synod of Jerusalem (A.D. 1672) says, "We believe that there are in the Church Evangelical Mysteries [i.e., Sacraments of the Gospel Dispensation], and that they are seven. For a less or a greater number of the Mysteries we have not in the Church; since any number of the Mysteries other than seven is the product of heretical madness. And the seven of them were instituted in the Sacred Gospel, and are gathered from the same, like the other dogmas of the Catholic Faith." (from Orthodoxwiki)

Dositheus was Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem

I understand the aversion of defining God's Mysteries from the Eastern perspective. But there has to be some limitations so as to retain the utmost awe which these Mysteries deserve. Would anyone disagree that these conditions must exist:
God's action
A physical ritual (rite)
Administration by a priest or bishop

This could possibly include funerals, coronations, but not icons. If Holy Orders would include tonsure, then should it not include a nun's profession and minor orders?
But then if one set only these conditions then any blessing would be a Mystery, would it not? So would Divine Liturgy and Liturgy of the Presanctified Liturgy.

I think the Fathers of the Church who defined Seven Mysteries serves us well and Pandora's box remains closed.

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I think 'seven' became something of a fixed number in the West because it was the number that Peter Lombard comes up with in his Book of Sentences. As in many other things, this text served to situate the conversation for scholastic theology. So 'the seven sacraments' became a kind of starting place. But the Lombard's list wasn't a settled thing in his day or even for a while after.


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