Monday, 9 September 2013

Indian Orthodox Heirarchical Liturgy

Here are some pics from the Liturgy this Sunday when His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church visited the UK.

Copyright for all these pictures belongs to the British Orthodox Church

1. The Catholicos arrives.

2. His Holiness with His Grace Bishop Timotheus of the UK, Europe and Africa.

3. Me and some of the Indian Readers waiting for the service to start.

4. Mar Timotheus begins the service. With him are Fr Halie Maskel of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church and Metropolitan Seraphim of the British Orthodox Church (Coptic Patriarchate), so 3 Oriental Orthodox communities and 3 continents ware represented here.

5. His Holiness blesses those in attendance.

6.His Holiness censers the Church.

7. I had the blessing of holding the candle for one of the priests during communion (Over 500 people communed.)

8. The Heirarchs, Clergy and Diaconate picture

9. Me with His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II and Metropolitan Seraphim El Souriani.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Book Review: Sweeter than Honey: Orthodox Thinking on Dogma and Truth By Dr. Peter Bouteneff

Sweeter than Honey: Orthodox Thinking on Dogma and Truth
By Dr. Peter Bouteneff
ISBN: 978-0881413076
Price £6.58 (Amazon Kindle Store)

As a book which I picked up purely as a timepass during a recent trip to Trivandrum, Bouteneff's most commonly known work turned out to be a worthwhile investment and one which I finished before the plane even took off. I am a fan of Bouteneff's academically honest writings and accessable writing style, but this book can easily be read and respected by Theology readers across the spectrum.

The book comprises of two sections, one which deals with the Philosophical complexities of defining truth, the other with how the Church forms Tradition around this truth. Both sections are close to 100 pages long and comprise of readable bitesize sections amid longer chapters. This allows the book to be read at a steady pace and entire sections easily found for rereading and academic quoting without sifting through paragraph after paragraph.

The content of the first section, as previously mentioned, is centered around the question "what is truth" and tackles this from a Theological viewpoint, questioning the role of Revelation and scripture in the process of defining truth. This is a good place to start, since it adds to the experience by giving the reader the benefit of understanding what Bouteneff means by truth before entering into the discussion of the Dogmatic side of the book.

The second section is where Bouteneff gets into the real study of Orthodox Dogmatics, looking at the importance of Dogma and the study of theology. This section studies the reason for studying theology, and Church's motives in the development of the Canons and Doctrine. This is further split up into sections explaining why and how certain factors and contributors to the development of Orthodox Dogmatics emerged, making compelling arguments for everything from the Orthodox Exegetical approach to the veneration of the fathers and their works. He also make a compelling case for the polemical language used by the fathers, which demonstrates a fair and academic approach which allows the reader to understand the complexities of reading the fathers.

 As key factors in the understanding of the vitality of Tradition and Dogma to the Orthodox faith, the reasons for their development of the various areas of Orthodox Doctrine and key questions surrounding the,  are covered well by Bouteneff and in a way which is extremely inviting and readable.  Altogether, I could not recommend this book enough. Not only is Bouteneff's writing style one which invites the reader to continue and learn, but the way in which he tackles a topic which can be immensely dry with a vitality which can only be found in a writer who triely values the Traditions of the Orthodox Faith.

Structure and Synod in the Orthodox Tradition

General Structure

The Orthodox Church has no specific 'job titles' so to speak, though specific members of the Heirarchy will have specific titles according to their means. Here are some key examples and Explanations of terms.

Within the Eastern Orthodox Church there are 9 Patriarchs, with 6 Autocephalous Metropolitans who were granted Autocephaly over their various territories by the Patriarchates. Neither of these answer to a higher authority except for The Archbishop of Athens whose territories are partially under Constantinople.

There are six further Autonomous Archbishops/Metropolitans who have regional control over their territories, these were granted their Autonomy through one of the larger Churches and therefore cannot take the title of Patriarch as their head is appointed through another Patriarch.

(List Of Eastern Orthodox Heirarchs Here)

As well as this, within the Non-Chalcedonian Tradition there are 6 Oriental Orthodox Patriarchs/Catholicoi, with 4 Titular Patriarchs (and Catholicoi) holding Authority over specific areas but recognizing the Spiritual Authority of their Patriarch overall. The Oriental Orthodox community and Eastern Orthodox are not in communion, due to the Chalcedonian Schism of 451, though each retains its structure, with some cases of dual Patriarchs in the same place (Alexandria, Antioch, Istanbul/Constantinople, Jerusalem)

(List of Non-Chalcedonian Heirarchs Here)

Each Patriarch has authority over his Patriarchate, with no interference of others, though to make major decisions he would need the support of his Synod (Bishops in his Juristiction) and in many cases is expected to have support from the other Patriarchs, which is why the Orthodox Church does not have the changes in Doctrine in the way that other communities may.

Titles for heads of Jurisdictions
The head of a specific community will generally be called a Patriarch, Pope or Catholicos. 
Patriarch is the most common title for the leader of an Orthodox Community.
The term Pope originates in Egypt in the Patristic era and has been continued to be used by the Coptic Community rather than Patriarch. The Official Title of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria is also "Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa" though he is commonly simply called Patriarch.
Catholicos means 'Of the Whole' and is used by the Georgian Church in the Eastern Tradition and Armenian and Malankara (Indian/Jacobite) Churches in the Oriental Traditions

Titles for Bishops
Within each Jurisdiction there are Bishops heading Dioceses or with an Administrative role. They will have Titles based upon their role and authority

Metropolitan Bishop/Archbishop was the highest Authority until the title Patriarch was created at Nicaea in 325. These Bishops can rank above or below Archbishops depending on the Tradition (Macedonia and Serbia hold Archbishops as higher, most others rank Archbishops lower). They have no specific power or direct authority over other Bishops, though have the right to oversee Synods and Councils due to their higher authority in the Church itself. 

Archbishop is the title for a Bishop of greater responsibility than other Bishops, He may not always hold a Diocese, as it may be a title for a administrative responsibility.

Bishop is the title given to the head of  Diocese. The title dates from Apostolic times and is present in the writings of St paul, as well as St ignarius the Apostolic, who stated that all must be done through the Bishop. a Bishop is traditionally a male monastic (Since the 6th Century) or Celibate Priest, who has a role over an administrative function or Diocese. until recent times, these were only Diocesan and could not be transferred between Dioceses (By the Nicene Canons they were seen as 'Married' to one) though in recent years in the Eastern Orthodox Church this has changed. A Bishop without a Diocese is called a 'Titular Bishop' in the Eastern Orthodox and 'General Bishop' in the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The Synod
The Synod is the group of meetings. Since Orthodoxy keeps its Conciliar Structure, they play a vital role in discussing issues regarding the jurisdiction.

By the Canons of Chalcedon, every Patriarchate must hold a 6 Monthly Synod meeting, this was later changed to yearly at Trullo. This is also existent in the Oriental Orthodox Church who only recognise the first three Ecumenical Councils as being truly Ecumenical. The Synodial meetings will often be attended by all Bishops in that Patriarchate, who will discuss issues as a whole with the Patriarch residing, also holding separate meetings in specific councils, regarding different matters which will be reported to the Synod as a whole after. Dioceses also hold yearly Synodial meetings to discuss matters within that Diocese.