Fr Georges Florovsky: Do You Believe Reunification Is a Real Task?

Feast of St Sebastiane the Martyr

Florovsky_Square_6.jpgA DIALOGUE is primarily a meeting. In many circles—there is now a real will to meet. Meeting has already occurred at a distance—in the theological literature. We must first of all get to know one another. The problem of mutual familiarization must be tackled at all levels. Most fruitful of all would be joint study and discussion of the main themes of the Christian faith, based on the Word of God and in the context of the Tradition of the Church. This would be the beginning of the “preparation of hearts and minds” mentioned by Professor Karmiris. The problem of separation must be posed with complete honesty. And this will inevitably lead to the discovery that the very meaning and nature of “division” is understood differently in Rome and in the Orthodox Church. It follows that the question of “reunification” is also seen differently. This does not mean however that the first task of the dialogue must necessarily be the topic of “reunification” as such. This topic will arise of itself in the process of dialogue. To begin with it would be premature. It is necessary first of all to reach the conviction that “reunification” is a real task and not an artificial one, that the very being, the very nature of the Church requires it. The phrase, which is now so often abused—separated brothers—will be filled with living meaning only when it is experienced as an acute pain of separation, sorrow over separation, when the depths and reality of the schism are clearly realized.

The method of theological dialogue can only be ecumenism in time. [In a letter dated October 21, 1973 to the Scottish Reformed theologian Thomas F. Torrance, Florovsky noted that he held this concept of “ecumenism in time” as closely “correlated” to his program of neopatristic synthesis.] A true meeting of the divided East and West is possible only within the element of Church Tradition. The futility of the method of “comparative theology” has long been apparent in the experience of the ecumenical movement, and has already been abandoned. We must return to the sources. However, “ecumenism in time” does not mean a retreat to antiquity, nor does it mean a simple return to the past. Tradition in the Church is something greater, and something different, than memory alone, more than simple remembrance. Meeting in the context of Tradition is not a restoration—“restoration” always does violence to life. In any case, we cannot simply go back to the year 1054 and resolve anew the questions of those days. Both East and West have changed since then, and other questions now stand before us. Christian Tradition was split in the course of history. Now the task will be to restore its unity and completeness, and that should be the focus of theological dialogue. Meeting in the context of Tradition is a mutual process of coming to terms with the fullness of Tradition. No other way to a genuine reunion exists.

—Fr Georges Florovsky, A Sign of Contradiction

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