25 March 2009


I am a philhellene; to boot, I am philorthodox, and have been since, in 1961, I first went to Oxford's Orthodox Church (then in the sitting room of 1 Canterbury Road); met there Nicolas Zernov - him of the Theological teaparties - and was introduced to a bespectacled young man called Timothy Ware. In my second curacy, in south London, I was privileged by the close friendship of Christophoros, Bishop of Telmissos, who, lacking a deacon, used me as a sort of mute but vested diaconal dummy during his Holy Week services. When Lancing was celebrating its 150th anniversary, I secured a long and very gracious Message from His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, which I had solemnly processed up the Church at the Offertory, preceded by candles and incense. I have never lost my conviction that Byzantine Orthodoxy has great riches which it is our duty humbly and submissively to assimilate. For example, I share the view of Joseph Ratzinger that the West has never properly assimilated the iconological inheritance of the Seventh Ecumenical Council and his view that we westerners should take on board the entire development of that tradition as laid out in a succession of councils which took place in an East separated from Rome down to a midsixteenth century Council of Moskow. Only a week or two ago I expressed in this blog the hope that the filioque would be eliminated from the Creed as a natural part of a process of settling old problems between East and West.

You will have sensed that there is a but coming. There is. At Walsingham, when I was criticised in a public forum by a well-known Orthodox for having, in a Mass advertised as 'Anglican', said filioque, I am afraid I did feel combattive. All the more so because it was the only negative uttered by any participant, in a conference including Presbyterian, Methodist, Reform, Anglican, 'Uniate', Orthodox, during the entire four days. My initial reaction was to think "I don't lecture the Orthodox on what to omit from their Liturgy because it might offend somebody else". Next: "It would be a nice gesture if the Orthodox restored to the Nicene Creed the phrase they miss out: God of God. Why don't we start up a campaign about that?" And thirdly: "The Church of England has explicitly proclaimed filioque since at least the Council of Hatfield (680) recorded in Bede; what price here the claims made by some Orthodox that "the Anglo-Saxon Church was Orthodox"? And filioque is in our Articles, our Liturgy, and our Quicunque vult; if they want us to drop it they can b****y well ask us nicely".

And I've had further thoughts!


William Tighe said...

Um, well, I didn't have time to look through JND Kelly's *Early Christian Creeds* this morning, but I think that the original Nicene Creed has only "Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lumine" whereas what has passed as the "Nicene Creed" ever since it was (most likely) approved at the surprisingly ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381 ("surprising" because it was ecumenical neither in intent not membership, and recognized as such by Rome only in 534 after long-sustained refusal) has only "Lumen de Lumine, Deum Verum de Deo Vero" -- all in Greek, of course, but that the Latin version from the beginning conflated the two at this point.

Incidentally, is it only the Armenians who today use "original" Nicene Creed (complete with the anathemas at its end)?

Elizabeth said...

Orthodox myself, I would not dream of criticising another Christian body for using the filioque in their services if that is a standard part of their belief.

If I were present, I would simply maintain a respectful silence at that point in the Creed and make no further reference to it unless I was asked to comment.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do, etc....and if you don't like it, don't go there at all in the first place :-)

I am glad to hear you are still a philOrthodox, nevertheless !

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

Ecumenical Documents Of The Christian Faith suggests that Nicaea had both clauses ... in literary/rhetorical terms, I hinmk the repetition is very effective.

Gengulphus said...

It is particularly curious and notable that the synod of Hatfield which in 680 made such and early and explicit statement embracing the double procession of the Holy Ghost, should have taken place under the presidency of an eastern archbishop - and one whose canonization is recognized, I believe, by the orthodox church.

orrologion said...

Pretty please (see "nicely") drop the filioque from your reading of the Nicene Creed. :)

I am rather fond of a perhaps apocryphal statement by John Meyendorff of St. Vladimir's Seminary regarding Orthodoxy: "Right faith, wrong people".

There are no shortage of self-appointed St. Marks of Ephesus to tell off any lesser orthodox they are wrong.